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

STARS AND STRIPS! (article first published : 2000-09-21)

Potentially volatile story of three strippers handled with fun and song. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Link the name of playwright Shireen James with a story about three strippers and the result could be a pretty volatile production. Shireen has handled some fairly dark issues in her recent plays, like psychologically disturbed characters, rape and murder. She has the courage to tackle a subject head-on and go it alone in terms of getting her plays produced.

However, with her latest production Stars and Strips!, Shireen has chosen to change her mood completely and present a show that is fun, entertaining and non-judgemental containing none of the confrontational and outspoken dialogue she has produced in the past. Suggestive dialogue and sexy innuendo there is a-plenty but none of it is below the belt or offensive.

Stars and Strips!, which Shireen James also directs, owes a lot to the three actresses who appear in it. Calli Denton is forceful and humorous as the wasp-tongued Candy who is desperately trying to write and rehearse a “quality” cabaret which she believes will get her and the other two dancers out of the dive they’re currently working in. Catherine Mace tries to subdue her natural sharp intelligence (not always successfully) as the ditsy Peaches whose “old” – at least in the eyes of the other girls – boyfriend has promised to take her away from it all, albeit for a couple of days in the ‘Berg!

Not long out of Technikon Natal’s drama department, Jacinta Richards as Nina holds her own with the two more experienced actresses and the opening sequence when she is seen stripping (in silhouette while bathed in red light) shows her dancing ability. The choreography – and there’s not an awful lot you can do on the Cellar stage – is handled by Heather Barclay-Wiffin of the Cellar’s adult pantomimes fame.

The stage is set as a dressing room behind the stage of the strip joint and is a suitable clutter of mirrors, costumes and props. I’m not sure I understand why Candy or Peaches needed to wear wigs and the costumes could have been more flattering.

Making his debut as musical director is talented guitarist Colin Peddie who is currently appearing at the Langoustine Theatre by the Sea in Good Vibrations. The choice of numbers is eclectic to say the least, the odd mixture of styles is a bit unsettling and several of the backtracks were too synthesised for my liking. However, songs have obviously been chosen to suit the performers and most of them work very well, particularly Rubber Ball, Swinging on a Star, Run, Baby, Run and One.

The star of the show is undoubtedly Catherine Mace who, ultra-slender and gossamer light, hardly has the body type for audiences to believe that her character strips for a living. She came over particularly well in songs like Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man.

Tickets include a three-course meal well-prepared by the Cellar’s new chef, Siva. There is only one starter and this is Flaky Puff Pastry Pillow, deliciously filled with creamed spinach and feta cheese with the pastry case adorned with a diamond shape in keeping with the theme of the show. The two choices for main course are Baby Beef Schnitzel which was tender and succulent or Enchanting Chicken Siva which features breast (again going with the show’s theme!) of chicken stuffed with liver pate and topped with a herb butter sauce. There is only one dessert and this is Heavenly Bread and Butter Pudding, something I don’t normally eat but found it enjoyable.

The show runs from September 20 to October 22. To book phone (031) 369-9524 or 369-9505 or book through Ticketweb 086 140-0500.




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