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TWO … IS THE BEGINNING OF THE END (article first published : 2006-09-18)

Appearing at the 2006 Witness Hilton Arts Festival was Two: the beginning of the end, a fascinating one-act play written and performed by Clare Mortimer and Neil Coppen. I have missed this piece at its various showings this year so was happy to catch up with it at Hilton.

Cast your mind back to J M Barrie’s legendary tale of Peter Pan. Remember the boy who was ever young, who flew into the London home of Mr and Mrs Darling and aeronautically abducted their three children? During this process Peter lost his shadow which got shut in a drawer by mistake. The eldest of the children was Wendy with whom Peter formed a strong bond and the end of the story sees Peter returning the children to their parents and flying back to the Never Never Land to follow new adventures.

Catapult yourself forward to the here and now and Durban’s Point Road area where a prostitute lies down to sleep in her dingy room when in “flies” Peter Pan – or at least, that’s who he says he is. He’s lost his shadow and is accusing “Wendy”, as he calls her – of hiding it from him.

What follows with Two … is the beginning of the end is a fascinating journey into the real, the psychotic, the fabled and the imagined performed by two of KZN’s most acclaimed artistes.

While the music was evocative and the billowing curtains à la Peter Pan gave a moody touch, I had a problems with the performance – particularly on the day I saw it. Despite being seated very close to the stage, I missed a good third of the dialogue through vocal under-projection. The lighting was so low it was almost impossible to read Clare’s expressions at the beginning when the audience is trying to become acquainted with her and judge her mood and motives. What was presented would have made a terrific movie piece but it wasn’t strong enough for stage.

Two … is the beginning of the end is clever, tortuous, fast-moving and highly dramatic but I believe it has not yet reached its full potential. While one does not ask for slick answers and the imagination should be left to decide how to interpret it, clearer pointers are needed than are presently given. Like a maze, the many twists and turns the plot takes lead audiences along a dramatic voyage of discovery - but in this case, the maze is still a bit muddled and the pathways not clearly defined.

I didn’t believe that the image presented of the prostitute – not stereotypically blowsy or loud but neat, fashionably simple and well-contained – would have lived in such a shambles. While I understand the need for the flimsy curtains, I felt sure she would have hung them properly and bought some cheap material for proper curtains.

With earlier direction by Peter Court, the current production is directed by Steven Stead. I hope that Clare and Neil will explore the work further as it is too good a vehicle to let lie. My comments aside, it certainly formed one of the major talking points at the festival – and that’s what theatre’s all about, isn’t it? – Caroline Smart




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