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A TASTE OF THOMSON (article first published : 2006-09-30)

Up at the comfortable and well-equipped Heritage Theatre in Hillcrest, Barry Thomson performs what he enjoys – and does - best … in his first one-man show, A Taste of Thomson.

Barry Thomson’s CV is impressive going back from his studies at Technikon Natal (now DUT) where he specialised in classical and contemporary guitar for four years. His career has seen him performing in the US and the Arab Emirates and he taught Joseph Clarke to play electric guitar in preparation for his role in Buddy. He is a familiar figure in local productions and outside the province, mainly from his many appearances on the Barnyard Theatre circuit. He co-devised and was musical director of The Guitar That Rocked the World, the Vita award-winning show that followed the history of the Fender Stratocaster guitar.

All of this adds up to impeccable credentials for this kind of production. However, launching a solo show is always a terrifying step. It’s far less stressful being part of a group than placing yourself and your talents under the piercing scrutiny of the spotlight. On opening night, Barry was plainly nervous but had the sense to say so: “You can never be as nervous as I am right now!” he quipped with an engaging smile.

Opening night was all of five days ago and by now, Barry will undoubtedly have relaxed into his presentation, professional performer that he is. He’s an honest and disarming musician which is a delight and long may this last. All he needs to do is be comfortable as the main man and allow his personality to come through - like in his introduction to Neil Diamond’s I am I said: “It encapsulates everything I am”. He could have created much more humour out of his opening number, George Thorogood’s Haircut (“Get a haircut and get a real job”). Heaven knows how many frustrated parents down the ages have said that to youngsters wanting to be musicians!

Barry has superb support from the inimitable Dawn Selby on keyboards – and a Hammond organ built in 1955. Their professional relationship goes back about 20 years when he worked with her Strawberry Fields band and it shows in the unspoken musical dialogue between them.

The programme line-up is well-chosen to highlight Barry’s skills and allows him to use at least four different guitars. They’re all there – classics like Elvis Presley’s Viva Las Vegas, Jethro Tull’s Locomotive Breath and Gary Moore’s Still got the Blues as well as The Eagles’ Love will keep Us Alive and Jimmy Hendrix’s Hey Joe. Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven was beautifully presented and, of course, The Shadows’ Apache brought the house down. Another highlight was Desperado, a duet between Barry and Dawn.

The surprise of the evening was the introduction of two hotshot miniature musicians. Miniature they may be in terms of height but their talent is massive. Martin Creed (11) and his sister Amanda Creed (14) have been given an opportunity to appear in Taste of Thomson every night. This must surely make them the envy of their contemporaries.

Amanda is a highly skilled drummer but it is Martin who takes centre stage with a guitar that is almost as long as he is tall. To see this diminutive guitarist performing with – and matching in musicianship – the tall angular figure of Barry Thomson in You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet was one of those magical moments of theatre one wants to wrap up and preserve for ever.

With strong back up from Mark Freel on bass guitar and the irrepressible Mali Sewell on drums, the musical content is rock solid.

A Taste of Thomson runs at The Heritage Theatre until October 8. Tickets R150 pp include a delicious two-course meal.

Starters feature Smoked Tuna, Soup of the Day and Heritage Antipasto which I chose and it was a nice crisp portion of calamari, feta and salad greens. Main course offered Oven Baked Cardinal (line fish), Wok Tossed Chicken with Bell Peppers and Mushrooms and Springbok Shank which was an interesting and tasty substitute to the Heritage’s popular Lamb Shank. For vegetarians there’s Triangoli – pasta pockets filled with beetroot and Mascarpone cheese. Dessert is not included in the show/meal ticket and items range from R19.50 to R26.50. Bookings on 031 765 4197. – Caroline Smart




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