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

FROM MY POINT OF VIEW (article first published : 2005-07-12)

Acclaimed and award-winning Durban performers, Clare Mortimer and Darren King. appeared on the Fringe of the National Arts Festival 2005 in Grahamstown in From My Point of View. The production is based on a short story by Steven Berkoff who gave his personal blessing for them to do the piece.

There were obviously no guidelines in terms of stage directions, set or costumes so the duo decided to include a strong element of movement which gave the story an interesting twist. Durban audiences are well aware of Darren’s qualities as a dancer of high standard but the pleasant surprise was to find that Clare more than held her own as his partner.

The story deals with a young woman whose early life was dysfunctional. Father had a thrombosis and was paralysed and Mother was a harridan. After her first sexual encounter, she got more shameless as she grew older and soon it became a way of life. Incongruously, this woman has no desire to be liberated or a feminist. She just wants a nice little place where she can do things for her man, cook for him and sit on the sofa in his arms.

There is no let-up in her activities and, accompanied by a restrained detachment from the woman, there is much simulated sex on or off beds with heavy breathing and gyrations from the men she gets involved with (all played by Darren). Despite this, we find ourselves warming to this social misfit who happily gives her body to all and sundry. Public opinion to the contrary, she doesn’t charge for her favours. She does it “to help” - to be “a comfort zone for all the unfortunates”. It’s almost as if she’s providing a community service!

In the festival newspaper, Cue, Clare described the story as “low class decadence”. However, the introduction of movement, the woman’s sophisticated chignon and attractive dress as well as a jazzy score lifts From My Point of View out of the sleaze.

At the start of the play, Darren sets the props – smugly, in vest, braces and black trousers which is his costume for most of the play. He even carries in the woman as if she was a store mannequin and places her into her dress which is lying on the floor, almost waiting for her to give it life.

The setting is minimal with a sprung bed frame providing a number of extra functions – such as a ticket kiosk; a bar counter or a wall. There is much clever imagery in the piece and Darren and Clare handle this well.

Eventually the woman finds herself banned from her local nightclub where the management feels she has overstepped the bounds of decency, suggesting a lowlier club down the road. While she doesn’t lack creature comforts at home, the loneliness doesn’t disappear. Eventually someone enters her life and offhandedly offers an invitation to sex. As the curtain falls, she makes the final commitment.

This is an excellent festival piece – both from the point of view of performers and audiences. The audience gets to enjoy Berkoff’s powers of writing and the performers are able to charge their creative batteries by working in a piece that challenges their talents. – Caroline Smart




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