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GRAHAMSTOWN - DRAMA (article first published : 1999-07-3)

The Junction Avenue Theatre Company’s Love, Crime and Johannesburg is utterly delicious and irreverent and is full of bitingly clever satire. It also offers the joy of hearing good voices uncluttered by amplified sound performed to a piano score, allowing us to hear every word of Malcolm Purkey and Carol Steinberg’s brilliant script. I was almost scared to laugh in case I missed the next line!

The show starts off with whacky observations such as “Johannesburg is the largest city in the world not built on a river. This is why we’re mad - we need water!” These words come from Lulu Levine (Gina Shmukler), who is in love with one Jimmy “Long Legs” Mangane (Lindani Nkosi who also handled the choreography). Only trouble is, Jimmy - who is also known as The People’s Poet - is in jail for robbing a bank. Sound familiar?

Whether or not there is a more than subtle reference to Mbuli, Chauke or McBride, the question is asked “is the public being told the truth?”. Appearing as the minister of law and order is Linda Sebezo, who is faced with pressure from old comrades played by Arthur Molepo and Ramalao Makhene, the latter putting in a particularly good performance particularly when he is bemoaning the fact that gangsters no longer have standards! I have never heard Ramalao sing before and was delighted by his rich deep bass.

While Lulu’s father (Lawrence Joffe) pays outward lip service to the state, he’s a racist at heart and doesn’t want her involved with Jimmy. Also because “he writes kak poetry” and already has a girlfriend (Baby Cele) who only lives “a gunshot away.”

With fine performances all round, Love, Crime and Johannesburg is tightly directed by its producer Malcolm Purkey and moves to the Market Theatre in Johannesburg after Grahamstown.

Ed Jordan’s, Xoli Norman and the company have created a highly enjoyable range of music for the show which varies from maskanda and township jive to jazz blues and Brecht. There are some impressive numbers and Denzil Wheale provides sympathetic accompaniment.. Musical direction is by Saranti Reeders.

The set by Sarah Roberts consists of the type of scrap metal used for industrial shelving. Her costumes are contemporary and stylish with the ever-glamorous Baby Cele looking stunning in skin tight pants with animal print top and turban.

Having just been the victim of a burglary, crime forms a major part of my thinking at present. Not so much because of the robbery but the way in which South Africans have come to accept the crime rate as a way of life. The show cheerfully paints a gloomy picture in that “If you can’t decide who’s guilty or not, then pardon everyone ... and all will be fine in a hundred year’s time!”


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