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

EXPLETIVE DELETED (article first published : 2006-07-7)

One of the joys of the National Arts Festival is the fact that writers, producers and actors can try out new work on the Fringe and assess its standard and value from public response. As this same public is made up of committed theatre-goers who have come to the Festival specifically to see and talk about as many productions as possible, you have a better yardstick than if you launched it in your home town to a wider – and perhaps not so analytical – public.

Janet van Eeden’s new one-man play Expletive Deleted is directed by Ian Roberts and features a strong and compelling performance by Thomie Holtzhausen. The character (Hannes)is a human firewall operating in the basement of a large company and his job is to screen outgoing and incoming emails for obscene material.

While other members of the staff flounce past him with noses in the air, like the hated Lerato, Hannes’s boss Ketiwe is beautiful, charming and apparently modest. His mother instilled in him that he should look for modesty in a woman and Ketiwe is all this and more. He lusts after her. After all, she headhunted him from his previous position where he was doing the same kind of work on Big Brother, a clever device by Janet van Eeden to place the audience fairly and squarely in the know.

When Ketiwe asks him to lift the firewall from her email, he does so with alacrity. Believing that he is preserving her interests, however, he checks the contents of her correspondence. What he sees does not go down well with him and his inner fury simmers.

Added to his irritation, his overpowering mother is on the phone every hour or so asking him if he’s enjoyed the lunch she packed, did he remember his umbrella and what is he doing at that moment? When he responds with irritation, she bursts into tears. He is reminded of his long-held belief that if his mother had roused herself from her occupation in an adjoining room, his father might not have choked to death. Then there’s Jakes in Human Resources who spends far too much time eyeing his boss. So he needs to be dealt with. Thus, the simmering builds to an explosion.

In Expletive Deleted, Thomie Holtzhausen has a vehicle well suited to his dramatic abilities and allows him to show his vocal strength and passion.

At the performance I attended at the Kinetics Hall, the lighting was appalling. There was only a small area in which Thomie Holtzhausen was correctly lit. This Hall needs a lot of work before it can rightfully take its place as one of the acceptable venues of the festival.

This is a good script packed with interesting diversions and I would like to see it some time in the future – slightly reworked and in a proper theatre with decent lighting. – Caroline Smart




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