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

THE BOOK CLUB (article first published : 2006-09-21)

What a pleasure to sink into the comfortable seats of the Hilton College Theatre as the rain raged outside on the last day of the Witness Hilton Arts Festival and enjoy the consummate dramatic talents of Johannesburg actress Fiona Ramsay. Durban audiences will remember her as the director of the hugely successful Nunsense which played the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre some years back.

Appearing in a play that she last performed about seven years ago, she chatted, confided, ranted, danced and generally gave us marvellous entertainment in Roger Hall’s The Book Club directed by Alan Swerdlow. This is the first time the play has been seen in KwaZulu-Natal and it is a beautiful reflection of womanhood in all its moods – protective, funny, manipulative, caring, sensual, articulate and possessive but always completely feminine.

The emotions range from poignant helplessness to jealous rage in this skilfully written piece about a bored upmarket housewife. Fiona cleverly wove her story into KwaZulu-Natal, changing original names and references which the audience received with delight.

Debs comes from Kloof. A self-confessed book-buyaholic, she’s managed to control her craving to the point where she never buys a book until after lunch. Seeing three books by the same author looking forlorn like little puppies at the SPCA she buys all three, which provokes the expected reaction from husband Wally.

Now, husband Wally is literature-challenged, his focus at the moment is in running the Comrades Marathon for the first time …just so he can say he’s done it. Her mother is demanding, her children are leading their various lives which means that Debs is a bit short on stimulating conversation. So she joins a Book Club.

As her story unfurls she finds herself living her fantasy of being alone with an author at a book signing. Things progress to a more intimate level and in the end she gets what she really wants - love letters.

Fiona’s versatility and vocal command, which makes her one of South Africa’s most respected voice coaches, gives us all the members of said Book Club from the toothy garden enthusiast to the mellow-voiced pregnant mother. She identifies all the people in her life by the kind of books they read.

Don’t miss The Book Club if it ever comes your way – Caroline Smart




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