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THE EFFECT OF GAMMA RAYS ON MAN IN THE MOON MARIGOLDS (article first published : 2003-08-13)

Director Garth Anderson has taken on a challenging task with his current production for the Actors Co-operative of American playwright Paul Zindel’s Pulitzer prize-winner The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds. Movie-lovers will remember that the script was made into a popular film by husband and wife team Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

Aptly presented during the period of National Woman’s Day, it peers into the life of Beatrice, a hard-bitten, sharp-tongued virago of a woman. Slatternly in her appearance, she has abandoned the struggle of keeping up appearances and barely tolerates her two daughters. While dreaming of opening a tea shop, she makes no visible effort to keep her home tidy or support her children’s scholarly activities. For relief, she heads for the nearest bottle of alcohol.

Beatrice describes herself as having “one daughter with half a mind, another daughter being half a test-tube, half a husband and half a corpse (referring to her aged tenant)”. Forthright, impatient and with a tempestuous relationship with her elder daughter, she is blessed with some beautiful lines. Mpume Mtombeni certainly grasps this difficult role and makes it her own. Although she doesn’t always cope comfortably with the transgression of moods, the scene where she comforts her daughter in the middle of a thunderstorm is most moving.

Playing the highly volatile Ruth is Ntando Cele, who impressed me when she was still a student at Technikon Natal. She brings vigour and vibrancy to the part of the slightly unhinged elder daughter.

What sheer delight to see veteran actress Mamthandi Zulu back on stage again and stealing scenes without uttering a word! I hope that this will rekindle her love of acting and she will allow herself to let her valuable community work take a back seat more often.

Raeesa Karrim handles a beautiful cameo role as one of the students presenting their work at the school’s Science Fair. I hope to see more of her in the future.

However, acting is as much about silences and pauses as it is about words and actions.

In this context, Nondumiso Tembe walked off with the honours in Gamma Rays as the studious scientifically-minded younger daughter. In an exquisitely under-played, sensitive and real performance, she portrayed the child obsessed with the atom and its effect on the world as we know it. The title of the play is taken from one of her experiments with plants.

Generally, The Effect Of Gamma Rays On Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds works in its transferrance from an American location to Greyville but it could do with a little more local input such as colloquial expressions in Zulu. It’s well worth supporting for its intrinsic dramatic value.

The show runs to the end of August (except Mondays) at the Square Space Theatre on the University of Natal, Durban campus. Shows Tuesdays to Saturdays at 19h30 (Sundays at 18h00). Tickets R50 (Tuesdays Pay What You Can minimum R25 pp.) Pension and student concessions as well as block bookings for schools and other organisations can be arranged. Book at Computicket or phone Garth on 083 439 1532. – Caroline Smart




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