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A COLOURED PLACE (article first published : 2002-09-18)

A Coloured Place, currently running at Kwasuka Theatre until September 11 features Esmeralda Bihl and Crystal Tryon and is written by Malika Lueen Ndlovu (who Durban audiences will remember as Lueen Conning).

Lueen has produced a text that is heartwarming, incisive, provocative and filled with a sympathetic understanding of her roots in the coloured community. But these are stories that could be told anywhere Ė they could come straight from the popular English television series East Enders set in the East side of London, from Soho in New York or downtown Los Angeles. Or closer to home - from Hillbrow in Johannesburg. the Cape Flats outside Cape Town or in Durbanís Wentworth suburb. In fact, wherever the community is alive, opinionated, honest, vibrant and grasping the business of living with humour and a strong sense of survival.

A Coloured Place is an exuberant celebration of the coloured community whose members have never been afraid to put forward their points of view in a language that speaks from the heart peppered strongly with graphic detail and keen observation.

The show progresses from the opening scene where two young girls are discussing the origin of the coloured people to a final poignant reminiscing of two sisters after the death of their beloved grandmother. The show is punctuated by slides and voice-overs and some of the images of the people involved are delightful. The stage setting is a living room. The play opens with the furniture covered with sheets and as each piece is revealed, another scene is enacted.

This is the third time I have seen this production and I believe it has now achieved its strongest potential to date. Esmeralda Bihl and Crystal Tryon work extremely well together, bouncing off each otherís energies. With impeccable timing, they generate their individual talents to the full. Director Tina Johnson has guided the stories into a well-knit tapestry of various moods, each character exploring Lueenís skillfully-written scenarios with sympathy and respect.

There are two undoubtedly distinct highlights. Esmeralda Bihl puts in a beautiful performance as the daughter of an abused mother. Tortured by her response and controlling the conflicting emotions of pathos and concern, she still maintains the determination of a young woman with a life to live and a refusal to be caught in the same trap. Her work in television (Geraas, Yizo Yizo and Generations) stands her in good stead, allowing her to achieve a sustained inner focus. At times I found myself holding my breath in case I missed a single nuance of this piece.

In total contrast, Crystal presented an utterly delicious and gutsy portrayal of a woman alone on New Yearís Eve. Her husband is attending a family gathering, from which she has cheerfully managed to extricate herself, and she spends the evening pouring herself several glasses of boxed wine. Getting progressively more inebriated while smoking numerous cigarettes, she regales the audience with hilarious descriptions of her despised in-laws.

The opening audiovisual sequence is too long and the ending is somewhat unfulfilling. Also the process from the beginning of the show to its final natural conclusion requires defining.

However, this is a must-see production. Itís a strongly-directed, extremely well constructed and beautifully acted dramatic piece featuring two young actresses who weave a web of vigorous and exciting theatre in perfectly suited venue.

A Coloured Place runs at Kwasuka Theatre until September 22. Bookings at Computicket or phone 083 915800.




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