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FOUL PLAY (article first published : 2000-07-5)

John van de Ruit's new play Foul Play premieres in Grahamstown this month at the Standard Bank National Art Festival.

His first full-length production War Cry, due to appear at the Hilton Arts Festival in September, has just netted no less than nine nominations in the FNB Vita Durban regional awards. They only missed out on two categories but, being an all-male cast, they hardly qualified for best or supporting actress!

Foul Play is a sequel to John's highly successful The Final Cut which is also appearing at the festival. This time, the game under the spotlight is rugby and the roles of the players are reversed. Instead of being the stroppy one, Ben Voss is the nerdy dysfunctional Naas (named after you know who) who is very much under the dominance of his flashy smart-dressing brother Larry (van de Ruit) who displays dyslexic tendencies and has few if no qualms at lying, cheating or robbing.

It's a simple story. Granny dies. In her will, she asks that her two grandsons scatter her ashes over her husband's in England before they can receive their inheritance. Only problem is, the guys live in South Africa and are flat stoney broke. Solution? One of Larry's "fail-safe" schemes. Enter the victim (Tamar Meskin) as a well-heeled young lady at her first rugby match.

It's good to see Ben Voss in a less strident role than normal and he garners much of the audience's sympathy. Tamar is sexy, sassy and enigmatic while John van de Ruit's Larry was suitably mercurial and bossy although his outfit seemed inappropriate. White trousers are usually a luxury only afforded by those with washing machines or maids and, if the two brothers were so broke, Larry's gold necklace would surely have fetched a good price. Also, any cellphone left lying around unattended at a rugby match would have vanished, for sure!

The play still has many rough edges and needs the controlling hand of a strong director but it's a highly amusing script from a talented scriptwriter and there are some delightful scenes.




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