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

ROLL OVER BEETHOVEN (article first published : 2001-11-4)

Once past the intensely brightly-lit carpark and interior glitz of Gateway – the centre is a dazzling sight as you approach from the N2 –The Barnyard offers the kind of ambience created by other theatres in this franchise although most of them are situated in more farmlike structures.

The auditorium itself is large, seating about 420 and there are four different levels – two at ground level and a further two in the gallery. It’s reminiscent of The Globe Theatre in London except that those at ground level are seated at large wooden tables. There is a strong focus on wood in the décor and wood shavings cover the floor.

The first show at the new Barnyard Theatre at Gateway is Roll Over Beethoven scripted and directed by Ian von Memerty which has enjoyed a sell-out run elsewhere in South Africa. It is a rock revival in which the spirit of Beethoven returns to the world of the living to prove that even composers who have been dead for over 300 years can still inspire top rock numbers of today.

Personally, I wasn’t happy with the caricature of Beethoven – cod German accent, unkempt hair, untidy clothing and leggings. The show hinges on the premise that the composer introduces those numbers which have been inspired by classical works. I would have liked to have seen him in a wheelchair plus ear trumpet muttering his pithy and amusing comments from an observational viewpoint, only being catapulted into action later in the show as he becomes irresistibly drawn by the rhythm and the beat of the contemporary pieces.

Besides that quibble, this is a show filled with extraordinary talent where every cast member gets a chance to shine.

Based in Rome, Cedric van Strik is a powerful and versatile performer, impressing with his pop star take-offs, particularly Freddie Mercury and a spaced-out Jim Morrison. Having been seen in smaller venues lately, Shelley McLean has now acquired a sophisticated and world-class style and is able to use the full power of her voice and personality in this larger space. Smooth-voiced and charming, Granville Michaels proves that he can match Michael Jackson any day!

Classical and jazz violinist Kate O’Hanlon wowed the audiences and guitarist Roger Grant’s flamboyant playing matched her laid-back style and they had an exhilarating duet together at the end of the show. Judy Brown impressed on sax and keyboard and it was good to see Kerry Hiles, who studied at Technikon Natal, back on the Durban stage proving she’s a hot bass guitarist. On drums, Alan Lloyd’s sure-fire rhythmic instinct holds it all together. Memorable numbers are White Shade of Pale, Riders of the Storm, Natural Woman, I Will Survive and Walking on Sunshine.

I don’t believe that this is Ian von Memerty’s best production. It doesn’t really hold together but the audience seemed to love it and they’re the ones paying! The lighting and sound is good and the overall effect is fun, energy and good music.

You can take your own food or order Fabulous Food Boxes through the theatre. We sampled one and it was extremely good value at R35. Sufficient for two, it contained a sophisticated range of items from an asparagus bouquet, grilled aubergines and a large bread roll to pastrami, smoked chicken, salami and a delicious brandy flavoured pâté. But you do need to order 24 hours in advance. A cash bar and cigar lounge are available.

Tickets R65 (show only) for performances Tuesdays to Saturdays. Guests are advised to get to the theatre at 18h30 (show at 20h00) to enjoy their meal. Sunday is Family Day with a "Buy One, Get One Free" offer on the lunchtime show, with the doors opening at 12h00 (show at 14h00). Bookings and inquiries on The Barnyard ‘s hotline on 0860 102 370.




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