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

MICHAEL DIED (article first published : 2006-07-6)

Durban performers Sean de Klerk, Cara Markewicz and Daničlle Perlman appear on the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in a production written and directed by Libby Allen.

Subtitled “the quest for magic in a world of black and white”, the play leans heavily on clowning and the performers are made up as white face clowns and are clad in black, white and red.

In the beginning, Michael is conceived and we see him inside the womb as he develops, learning to flex his muscles and kick at the sides of his confined space. He hangs on for dear life when his parents have sex and afterwards dodges the sperm that come hurtling past. Sean de Klerk handles this sequence beautifully although it takes too long in the overall time frame considering that we then move to his adulthood by virtue of a few quantum leaps.

As his sharp-tongued sister, Cara Markewicz evinces the right level of anger and jealousy – her email address is aptly killboys@bitchnet! She offers a hilarious and ruthless attack on the characters in Winnie the Pooh. Even in adulthood, she is still angry at her brother (who was headboy) for reporting her for smoking pot in the schoolyard.

Michael becomes a dentist and gets married … to a pushy, manipulative diet fanatic. Their arguments range from puppies on the toilet paper to attendances at functions.

The dysfunctional threesome rage around each other until Michael has had enough. His thoughts of suicide and silent cries for help go unheard until one day he drives himself off the road and into a tree. Goodbye, Michael.

While the bulk of the acting is carried by Sean de Klerk and Cara Markewicz presents a strong portrayal of frustration and inner anger, it is Daničlle Perlman who commands attention. Primarily a dancer, she exudes an inner control which is riveting.

This is a well-presented work which has much potential but the link between the clowning and actuality is tenuous. I hope to see it back home in Durban once the director and cast revisit their festival experience and look at what works and what doesn’t.

Libby Allen also directs One Mind, One Mouth, One Mic with Iain Robinson which has received good response from festival-goers. – Caroline Smart




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