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

THOSE WERE THE DAYS (article first published : 2001-07-19)

Some time back, actor and guitarist Patrick Collyer surveyed the approach of the new millennium and thought of how far the world and its peoples had travelled since the days of his youth. He decided that the beginning of the 21st century seemed a good time to celebrate the songs of the 60’s and early 70’s and threw the idea around with friend and colleague, well-known broadcaster Monica Fairall.

Both had been much involved in the folk music of the time and between them they devised a programme of much-loved favourites which provided a fair representation of the period. And so, after gathering together “like-minded people”, a musical tribute to this era was born. Featuring singer Angela Dodds and the highly experienced and established members of Odyssey – Fiona Tozer, William Wallace and Dave Atkinson - Those Were the Days had its first performance at the Kwasuka Theatre early this year. Before long, it has turned into a smash-hit beyond the cast’s wildest dreams.

This success of this affectionate look-back at acoustic music and singers from the 60’s and 70’s garnered the cast many offers including a season at the Royal Hotel’s Backstage where they are performing until July 28. The stage is suitably adorned with Ban the Bomb signs and flower power in the shape of strings of chrysanthemums, masquerading as daisies! Two thrusts provide space for the narrators which allows for a more intimate interaction between performers and audience.

The interesting aspect of Those Were the Days is that it seems to have the capacity to be performed in any venue – whether it be the Kwasuka Theatre, the Royal Hotel’s comfortable Backstage supper theatre venue or possibly an area the size of Kings Park. The show just adapts and changes texture like a chameleon.

The linking narrative by Monica and Patrick explains aspects of certain songs or singers. The “musical backbone” of the show is provided by Fiona Tozer, William Wallace and Dave Atkinson who have worked together for many years and their entrenched partnership shows to good advantage. While it’s very much an ensemble piece and all members get to perform a solo number, the memorable highlight is Fiona Tozer’s wonderful rendition of Woodstock.

Those Were the Days doesn’t try to be politically deep or offer an academic insight into the kind of people that made up what became known as the “Hippie” era. Instead, it’s a gently amusing, easy-going and enjoyable journey down memory lane presented by a highly competent and experienced cast.

Songs featured come from the likes of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Donovan, Simon and Garfunkel ... and more. while numbers range from the highly satirical Big Blue Frog or toe-tapping Mister Tambourine Man to the laconic I feel like I’m fixin’ to die rag or the plaintive Just Like a Woman. They’re all there, old favourites such as Catch the Wind, Scarborough Fair, What have they done to the rain, Carnival is Over, Feelin’ Groovy, Jet Plane, Teach Your Children and, of course, the show-stopping title number.

The menu picks up the style of the period and includes amusing features such as “spaced out sesame” to go with a delicious butternut puree (thick soup) or “totally awesome” for the other starter which is pickled Line Fish although the sauce tasted more curried than pickled. The main course offers “Totally fab” Lamb Casserole or Breast of Chicken “radically filled” with mushroom and spinach. And to top it all there’s “Blow your mind” Chocolate Mousse Duo.

Tickets R120 booked through the Royal on (031) 333-6222. The group’s CD will be on sale for R90. (see review on CD in Music pages) - Caroline Smart




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