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TABLE MANNERS (article first published : 2003-09-6)

The latest offering at Kwasuka Theatre by Greg King is aptly described as a “Dishy Whodunit inspired by the works of Agatha Christie”. “Dishy” is the operative word here. The focus of attention is a dinner table and the plates, crockery, glassware and table linen play a major role in the process of this unconditional frothy and offbeat romp through the Agatha Christie murder mystery genre.

The story is set in the Snowy Creek supper stage. It is the opening night of a show by the much-heralded – and hated - Dina Devine. Unfortunately we never get to meet this flamboyant character as she is discovered dead in her dressing room. Among the people in the room awaiting her performance are some who have a very good motive for getting rid of her.

As the play progresses, the audiences are given various versions of the scene of the crime as the characters embark on a hunt to find the killer. Each suspect’s actions are re-constructed with much hilarity and inventive use of the articles to hand. The result is a mix of Nicholas Ellenbogen, Ellis Pearson and Aldo Brincat mime and physical theatre styles combined with some amusing song sequences. To date audiences are responding with delight.

The cast features a line-up of top Durban performers. Belinda Henwood is an adorable Shiney Bright; Carol Trench puts in a spunky performance as the bad-tempered Muffy; Darren King is utterly camp as the theatre’s host Toulouse; Karen van Pletsen injects a robust raunchiness to the role of Kate and Neil Coppen is suitably adoring as Daniel. Supporting them are Richard Walne as the disgruntled agent and Heather Schreiner who makes a welcome appearance on the Durban theatre scene as the tipsy Madame la Bouche.

After having once criticised Justin Southey for bad vocal presentation, I am happy to say that he was completely audible and commanding in his role as the pianist, Berlioz. His musical interchanges were one of the highlights of the show.

Admirers of Greg King’s other productions, such as Steel Magnolias and Memory of Water and the recent collaborations with other production companies, Run to Ground and Educating Rita, may find this piece too frivolous for their liking but tonight’s capacity audience - and undoubtedly the many more to come – will secure the upkeep of the theatre for a while.

Table Manners was first commissioned by the University of Natal Pietermaritzburg and performed at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in 2001. It is apparently the most requested of all KickstArt’s successes and it’s easy to see why.

Table Manners runs at Kwasuka Theatre until September 18. Performances Tuesday to Saturday at 20h00 with Saturday matinees at 14h30. Tickets R60 (R50 students and pensioners) available at Computicket or on 011 340 8000 and 083 915 8000 or through Greg on 083 544 2006. There are discounted prices for block bookings. – Caroline Smart




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