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

SAMBA! (article first published : 2001-03-28)

Themi Venturas’s celebration of Latin rhythm, Samba! is currently running at the Langoustine Theatre by the Sea. It features a welcome range of different faces on the Durban theatre circuit: Marc Maurel, Collette Akeroyd, Keith Webster, Annaline Potgieter, Patrick Bauristhene and Tarryn Leek. Such a range of new talent virtually puts guitarist Colin Peddie - well-known as a guitarist and recently seen in The Guitar That Rocked the World - into the role of veteran!

The performers are all young, eager and committed but their inexperience shows with a lack of the upfront in-your-face sexuality and coiled energy required for the hot and sultry music that makes for all that is Latin rhythm. The plus side is that they can only get better with experience and by the time you read this, they’re probably putting in performances of greater strength and confidence.

Perhaps first night nerves and an audience full of stony faced critics might have had something to do with a certain nervousness emanating from the stage. It’s also quite hard work trying to avoid being upstaged by two highly Hispanic puppet mice – “Mexican Heroic Mice” (the voices of Themi Venturas and Shanthan) come to rescue a damsel in distress or at the very least, take part in an adventure! Apart from them, there’s the loud, brash Carmen Meander body puppet who would make Joanna Lumley’s character in Absolutely Fabulous look positively genteel.

Things improve enormously in the second half and the action goes with a zing. A lot of this was due to Taryn Leek who had had little to do as a soloist up until then. It took me a while to recognise her as the blonde-wigged ditsy secretary in Technikon Natal drama department’s Out of Order (reviewed in Drama). She has a good voice, though currently under-projected, and is definitely a performer to watch.

Surprise of the evening is guitarist Colin Peddie in his role as an actor – albeit hidden for most of the time as the handler of Carmen – who shows a good flair for comedy. Much more fun could be had dealing with the structure of this puppet and the close proximity of its handler but no doubt this will grow with the show. Carmen is not someone you’d like to meet on a dark night – she’d frighten the daylights out of you and she has a big – very big – mouth!

While Patrick Bauristhene impresses with his agility and body language, the choreography generally is too repetitive and occasionally the male singers are off-key – again, this could be put down to nervousness. But the lighting is well-designed and Jannie Engelbrecht and Coral Chamberlain’s costumes are great.

Generally, this production will be enjoyed by those who enjoy numbers like Living La Vida Loca, Un Dos Tres, Marguerita, Mambo Italiano and Party Time. It’s also great to see a team of new faces.

Tickets are R110 (includes a three course meal) for performances Wednesday to Saturday; and R89 (two course meal) for performances on Tuesdays and Sundays. There are three starters: Cut steak peri peri (which my companions described as delicious), Greek Salad or Calamari al Greco, the latter was my choice and the rings were tender and lightly seasoned. I chose the Lango’s Famous Lamb Shank, tasty as always, and my finicky husband pronounced his linefish very good. The other choice is stir-fried mixed vegetables Thai style. Dessert is a delectable Peach Melba.

Booking is through The Lango on (031) 563-7324 or Computicket, credit cards call (031) 304-2753 or online at http//www.computicket.com. - Caroline Smart




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