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ARNEY’S OUTRAGEOUS RISE (article first published : 2002-06-5)

Actor Aldo Brincat produced his Arney’s Outrageous Rise a couple of years back in answer to the horrendous onset of the AIDS pandemic and the desperate need to create widespread awareness of safe sex.

Aldo is a subtle actor. Sometimes too subtle as I have mentioned in previous reviews when I had wished that he had grasped his material a little more vigorously. However, this time his talents are shown off well in the intimate Square Space Theatre at the University of Natal.

The set is a simple upright structure placed at the back of the stage and criss-crossed with wires and clothes pegs. Here Aldo hangs his numerous masks which allow him to portray different characters. There is little else apart from a floor mat, a Diet Coke tin with straw and his ever-present suitcase which contains more masks! These are fairly coarse and tend to flatten the upper lip while restricting his speech to a certain extent.

Directed by Greg King, the show chronicles the coming of age of Arney van der Merwe. It opens in Arney’s old school and he is delighted to “recognise” old teachers and schoolmates in the audience. He then rambles down memory lane, meeting characters such as his cane-wielding headmaster, his ineffectual nail-paring father, beetle-browed younger brother and the delightful Belinda van Wyk whose smile he would never forget, even with bits of Chelsea Bun on her teeth!

To add to the complete disguise of the mask, Aldo wears false teeth and a wig – leaving his naturally bare head to be used later to greater effect. It says something of the nature of the man that for 90% of the show we never see his face and yet he commands the audience’s riveted attention.

Arney’s Outrageous Rise is an education piece and one that reaches further than schoolchildren and young people. With fair dollops of humour, Aldo deals with child abuse, first love and safe sex as well as the sensitive portrayal of a colleague dying of AIDS.

Life is hard for Arney and he sighs a lot. But the message he carries of good sensible sex education is strong and far-reaching. He imbues the simple act of extracting a condom from its packet with touches of humour, even discussing possible improvements to the design.

Arney’s Outrageous Rise is directed by Greg King and the hour-long show is well worth a visit. It runs in the Square Space Theatre until June 16. Tickets R42 from Computicket or R35 at the door. – Caroline Smart




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