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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE PALACE (article first published : 2008-07-4; last edited : [an error occurred while processing this directive])

Paul Slabolepszy’s A Saturday Night At The Palace is a three-man show appearing on the Fringe programme of the 2008 National Arts Festival. It's about two roommates who lose their way on a road trip to Durban. They stop at a roadside burger takeaway because their motor bike has broken down. We are taken on a whirlwind journey about their lives while they try to fix the bike.

September the ‘boy’ who runs the Rocco’s Burger Palace is the only other person around. The burger palace (set) is very realistic and designed as if untouched from the apartheid era, with an old telephone, old signs, including an old South African flag.

The character of Vinnie is very outspoken, loud, violent and a big bully. Hennie is soft spoken, shy and respectful. It was a great contrast between the two characters and added to the mix is the subservient character of September. The soft nature of Hennie is brought out when we see him being kind and respectful to September, especially when he asks September to teach him Gumboot dancing. He makes September feel like a man who can teach someone something rather than a servant. It was an endearing sight to see a white man honestly attempting a tribal dance.

The story continues and they need to find a “tikki box” (public telephone) to call their friend Dougie to help them out. A vast number of topics are brought to the fore including: dancing, girls, football, the milky way, overseas, Hollywood, New York, the technicalities of asking a girl out, chips, microchips, body language of dating, breasts (they refer to it as ‘cans’), having sex for the first time, BEE and unemployment, amongst other things.

With topics as varied as this the performers effectively help create really comedic moments and still tragic sections.

Vince is the rough and tough boy, who is very violent, very racist and very loud. His looks and feel of his character is successfully imposing and dislikeable. At times he resembles a rebellious John Travolta from Grease, with certain movements. The actor playing Vince successfully makes the audience feel as if he alone (compared to the other two characters) is still living in the apartheid era. He has a good strong voice and nice stage presence. The performer playing Hennie portrays him with a gentle stature, soft hearted and with a schoolboy innocence especially when talking about sensitive topics such as girls and sex.

Performers had great on-stage relationships and the dynamic of all three completely different personalities made for an interesting mix.

The concluding scene saw a tumultuous interaction when Vince finds out that Hennie and his roommates have decided to kick Vince out. Vince becomes very aggressive, especially towards September (whose real name we find out is Busisiwe) and a battle ensues in which Hennie stabs Vince and decides to blame it on September to save himself. A wonderful concluding climax to the story. - Shika Budhoo




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