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MERCURY RISING (article first published : 2001-06-18)

Duncan Royce’s FNB Vita award-winning salute to Freddie Mercury, Mercury Rising was first performed at the Langoustine Theatre by the Sea on July 7, 1999 – interestingly, two years ago virtually to the day that this excellent re-worked version closes at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre on July 8.

Calling in well-known actress Belinda Harward to direct, Duncan wanted to extend the supper theatre version into more of a theatrical format. Also to create more focus on Freddie Mercury’s often searing and insightful lyrics.

And it’s worked. The first time round, I highly appreciated Mercury Rising although I have to admit that the relationship between the three singers/characters did not make a great impression. This time round, Duncan’s clever and skilful format makes for a fascinating and dramatic production. The distancing of the audience and the extra stage space helps – allowing for cool looks, angry gestures and passionate messages to achieve their full potential.

The format is simple but extremely effective. It’s the eternal triangle: husband, wife and husband’s lover. Wife won’t let go, lover is demanding and husband begins to look at his life and future.

Stan Knight’s set is an elegant drawing room in any sophisticated circle of society around the world. A huge velvet drape hangs at the back balanced by a painting of Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. The lover is playing hostess to the husband and wife. In between the songs, many drinks are poured from a tray on the grand piano and the characters relax in the armchair or the divan, which is much used as a mini stage and more stood-upon than sat-upon!

While tragically ironic that he should die of AIDS, which weakens and self-destructs, Freddie Mercury stood for power. Power in terms of energetic and focused performance, musical ability and strength of communication evidenced through even the smallest whisper.

Duncan Royce, Angela Kilian and Crystal Tryon with musical director Roelof Colyn at the keyboard do Freddie Mercury’s works justice. Most of the numbers are well-known favourites but they also include lesser-known but equally beautiful ballads. This is a true ensemble piece with all performers giving fine top-notch performances from start to finish– however, Angela Kilian’s performance in Barcelona was electrifying.

Musical arrangements are by Philipp Maier with additional guitar arrangements by Barry Thompson. Musical staging is by Catherine Royce and Duncan Royce. The show also sees the welcome return to KZN of Derek Swanepoel, entertainment manager at the Wild Coast Sun for many years, who is stage-managing the production. Duncan Royce will present a tribute to Billy Joel at the Langoustine in September.

Book at Computicket, credit card bookings on (011) 340-8000 or 083-915-8000 or visit www.computicket.co.za – Caroline Smart




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