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THE KING AND I (article first published : 2001-08-30)

With its current production, The King and I running at the Courtyard Theatre, Technikon Natal’s department of drama studies continues its proven track record of presenting high quality productions from a talented and well-disciplined cast of students.

The King and I poses many challenges. First of all, audiences are familiar with two major large-budget screen versions. That’s a tough act to follow. Then, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s music requires a high level of vocal maturity; the script itself is sophisticated and crisp; the cast is large and includes many children, and Anna’s large crinoline takes up a fair amount of available stage space! There’s also the need to portray the conflicting factors of a sumptuous royal status versus the desperation of two slaves who crave for the freedom to love each other.

All things considered, and particularly after a fairly disruptive final rehearsal period, the cast came through with flying colours.

Especially memorable is Joel Zuma’s portrayal of The King, a part tailormade for Yul Brynner who appeared in the Oscar winning film version in 1956. I first saw Joel in Jerry Pooe’s production of Peace in the Valley when he played a garrulous old man, handling the part with maturity, sensitivity and a good sense of gentle comedy. This talent for humour stands him in good stead in The King and I where the King tends to triplicate everything – “Who, who who?” and, reflecting Anna’s figure of speech, “Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera”. This young man is set to be one of Durban’s most exciting talents when he completes his studies. Remember the name.

Georgina Konigkramer matched Joel’s performance as a sprightly and gutsy Anna Leonowens. Not to mention overlong crinoline skirts which should have been altered to suit her height, she coped well with the music which requires an advanced level of training in order to do it justice. As her son, Byron McNally was a likeable Louis and Giselle Joseph a charming Tuptim, the latter showing a very promising singing talent. Another good singer, Hlengiwe Lushaba was a gracious Lady Thiang and as Prince Chululonghorn, Letlhogonolo Sechogela showed the necessary regal pride and stature worthy of an heir apparent.

Other performers worthy of note were Titus Pharoe, Denton Douglas and Lee Loveridge. Under Debbie Lutge’s direction and with Jay Pather’s choreography, the cast moves smoothly and efficiently from one scene to another. The glorious and sumptuous costumes and some of the splendid props have been hired from the State Theatre which gave the production a high visual impact.

Josef van Schalkwyk, happily now returned to Durban after burying himself in the country for several years, has produced an elegant and workable set and Juan Burgers’ musical direction has brought forth impressive results.

Book at Computicket or from the Courtyard Theatre on (031) 204-2532.




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