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

CHARLOTTE TO BARNYARD (article first published : 2004-05-11)

Charlotte Woodcock is visiting Durban for several months and was only too eager to submit her own experiences of Durban’s art and culture through the eyes of a visitor.

A visitor to South Africa, I find myself a long way from the lights of London’s theatrical West End that I call home. After two weeks of new experiences, from viewing a shark dissection to paying for shopping bags, I was eager to restore some sense of familiarity. I book tickets for Roll Over Beethoven, and become an audience member once more.

Entering the Barnyard Theatre at Gateway, I wondered if I’d taken another one of my “tourist wrong-turns”. “Where were the tiered seats piled high to the heavens? Or the ornate pillars to obscure the view?”

Instead, I find a delicately lit hall, furnished with wooden dining tables – sturdy enough to withstand the average dancing cast-member – and chairs that allow you to choose your own amount of leg room. Gone are the gentlemen struggling to shed their jackets whilst giving their neighbour a sharp dig in the ribs, and in their place are relaxed family and friends sharing an amusing anecdote over a cheese platter. “A cheese platter? In a theatre?”

Supper theatre is not a new concept in the UK, but to bring your own food into the auditorium is, and it works. The ushering into tightly packed seats, often dislodges the leisurely repose that comes from wining and dining amongst loved ones. Here it is not disturbed, and remains as the perfect precursor to being entertained.

The show itself exudes vibrant energy. A rock ‘n’ roll montage, with a play-list appealing to every generation. Even the more retiring audience members can’t help but tap a foot in time to the beat.

My first visit to a South African theatre production was thoroughly enjoyable. It helped to have a telephone number, as not all tourists have easy internet access to make online bookings. Finding the process seamless, I look forward to my next show. – Charlotte van Wyk




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