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VAGABOND (article first published : 2000-10-8)

The Vagabond is an evening of poetry and song presented by Jenny Wild and Juan Burgers. With Jenny reading the poetry and Juan providing the music, it currently forms part of the Slice of Madness presentation of the performing arts running at the Kwasuka Theatre during October.

Jenny Wild is a well-known civil rights lawyer who considers herself a “protector of human dignity” while Juan Burgers is an established figure in Durban’s theatre world, having appeared in many musical presentations both classical and popular. They describe themselves as “vagabonds in a society ebbed with consciousness”.

The first part of the show is given over to Vaughan Williams Songs of Travel taken from the poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson. As Jenny finishes reading the poem, Juan takes up Vaughan Williams’ musical interpretation. Together they provide such delights as The Vagabond, The Roadside Fire, Let Beauty Awake, Whither Must I Wander? and Bright is the Ring of Words.

The two performers then take solo spots – Juan to offer Shakespeare’s soliloquy given to Iago in Othello followed by the operatic version written by Verdi. Then Jenny, rapier sharp wit to the fore, explains her research into crime syndicates, ghost employees and corporate corruption. She reads her own poetry, laconically touching on a poem which many people at the time considered a suicide note. This caused such a furore that she took a (very long and expensive!) advert in the classified column of the Daily News to offer her response.

The pair close with Shakespearean settings such as Who is Sylvia and O Mistress mine and It was a lover and his lass linked to songs arranged by Schubert, Finzi and Quilter.

For the curious, this production offers an opportunity to see a straight-talking and fearless advocate replacing her legal arena for a theatrical presentation. But she offers far more than that. It was her moving argument on compassionate grounds in a courtroom that prompted Juan Burgers to ask her to join him in this production. In a calm and non-theatrical presentation, she reads poetry with intelligence and commitment, leaving the emotion to the music and song.

It’s very difficult for singers to accompany themselves. How do you split your brain and your body in two so that voice and hands work in harmony but not opposition? The energy required to make the voice give value to the lyrics, phrasing and composition must be slightly diminished when it comes to the hands, which must perforce act as accompaniment. Generally, Juan managed the two aspects well but he has an extremely strong voice and Kwasuka is a small venue and its acoustics impeccable. There were occasions when the sheer power of his voice strained the aural senses.

But these technicalities apart, The Vagabond is a production that will appeal to those who enjoy works by Vaughan Williams, Schubert, Quilter and Finzi which are well sung and poetry well read. There is a further performance on October 22 at 18h30. Book at Computicket or phone Kwasuka on 309-2236.

Juan Burgers also performs ”Something Wonderful –A Reflection of Rodgers and Hammerstein II” on October 13 at 19h00 and October 29 at 16h30.




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