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THOSE WERE THE DAYS (article first published : 2002-05-30)

How does one go about reviewing a production for the third time? Well, I believe the first step is to go back to the beginning and see if it still stays true to the initial concept, direction and construction.

Long-time friends and comfortable in their mutual banter, well-known broadcaster Monica Fairall and Patrick Collyer had often mulled over the idea of revisiting the songs they had both been closely associated with from the “Hippie” era. Towards the end of 2000 the idea of turning the resulting nostalgic journey into a staged piece became a definite proposition.

Those Were the Days was first presented early last year at Kwasuka Theatre as a fairly unassuming but committed tribute to the music of the 60’s. Its success was assured within 48 hours with sufficient bookings pouring in to generate an extension of the season. It was snapped up by the Royal Hotel management to appear at its Backstage Theatre where it had similar success.

Those Were the Days is back for a third season, this time at Lango’s in Durban North. And it is here that the show is presented to best advantage. The stage is just the right size and, while there is ample room for the musicians to stack guitars without falling over them, the back curtain lends the show the intimacy and informality it demands.

Headed by Monica Fairall and Patrick Collyer, Those Were the Days features Fiona Tozer, Dave Atkinson and Angela Dodds. Now completely assured and at one with their vehicle, the cast is tightly-knit and the voices blend well. Unfortunately, Will Wallace who was in the original cast, had other commitments and wasn’t able to do the run but otherwise the show stays true to its initial concept.

The programme includes selections from the singer/songwriters of the times such as Simon and Garfunkel, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Donovan as well as Peter, Paul & Mary and Cosby, Stills & Nash. The individual performers get to shine in solo pieces such as Patrick’s Catch the Wind. Monica’s What have they done to the Rain, Dave Atkinson’s Sweet Baby James, and Angela’s Scarborough Fair are among the highlights. Fiona’s focused and authentic Woodstock still puts tingles down my spine and, mildly terrified as I am of the creatures, the satirical Big Blue Frog is as close as I’ll get to enjoying frogs!

Michael Broderick’s fine lighting design plays no small role in the success of the show. With a sure hand, he generates beautiful and striking visual images which plunge through the gentle smoke effects.

Displayed on the side screens are visuals depicting poignant reminders of the Viet Nam War, leading music personalities of the time and images relating to the songs. They are not obtrusive but allow an extension of the stage without infringing on it. Voices blend well and there is only a problem when the sound engineer favours the backing harmonies rather than the lead singers.

As director Themi Venturas put it – it’s an “honest” show. The cast’s love of their music and ease with each other is tangible and Those Were the Days allows audiences to take an easy-going and laid back journey “trip” down memory lane. A time when – as the song says: “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with”!

Those Were the Days runs until June 23. Tickets R130 includes a three-course dinner (Sundays and Tuesdays R110 for two-course). For starters there’s a tasty Italian Minestrone Soup, Thai spicy Beef Salad and Garlic Mussels, which I chose. The latter was served with a cheese sauce and was not hot enough when brought to the table. Joint choice for main course was a Pepper Steak à la mode which was succulent and well-flavoured. Other options are Swiss style Chicken Schnitzel and Vegetable Linguine. For dessert there’s homemade custard slice or Ice cream and Chocolate Sauce.

Booking is at Lango's Theatre direct on 031 563-7324 or through Computicket on www.computicket.co.za




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