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

PICK UPS (article first published : 2000-06-1)

It’s always a pity that re-run productions have to cope with comparisons to their predecessors. The re-run is invariably placed at a disadvantage because it lacks the initial exposure value offered by the first production which then becomes a yardstick for others to come.

Directed by Christopher Weare, both the initial show which played the Playhouse Cellar two years and its current production, Pick Upsis certainly a highly humorous dramatic piece. Produced and written by Alex Braun and presented by The Arena Theatre Company in Cape Town, it is a comment on a different aspect to the battle of the sexes. The battle to find a mate, whether for a one-night stand or a longer length of time.

While it must be said that the first production was tighter controlled and of a higher standard, the current show in the Cellar featuring Lionel Swanson, Keeno-Lee Hector, Chan Marti and Colleen Nicklin is just as funny, just as acutely observant and just as poignant. In Pick-Ups the young men and women go through the various permutations of the “pick-up” line. And there are many – boy meets girl, girl meets boy, girl meets girl, boy meets boy, girls meet boys and even mixed couples try a pick up!

The cleverly-devised musical opening sets the scene for the fun to come. The locations differ – from a gay bar, rollercoaster or McDonald’s outlet to the Cape Town open air theatre Maynardville at a schools’ performance of a Shakespeare play. The cast slips in and out of well-drawn characters, being required to play anything from schoolchildren to drunken skollies. The most memorable characters include Lionel Swanson’s gawky, bespectacled and outrageously-dressed nerd,;Chan Marti’s cool sophisticate who hints at the possibility that she is a murderer and Colleen Nicklin and Keeno-Lee Hector’s corporate executives who discuss the furthering of a relationship as if they were drawing up a business contract.

With a joyous departure from the sequins and spangles, figure-hugging lycra, thigh-high boots or platform heels that usually scatter the supper theatre circuit, the outfits worn in Pick-Ups will not make any fashion statement, let alone any fashion show - anywhere! Sticking to basic blacks, the girls add shawls, jackets, scarves, blouses or aprons while the men wear gear that youngsters normally wear – slacks, T-shirts or suits. All true life stuff.

And that’s what this show is all about – while the sketches involving a range of pick-up lines may be slightly over-the-top, there’s an element of truth about the various situations. It’s scary but people do behave like this. The audience tends to feel voyeuristic, watching couples walk in and out of situations that can only lead to emotional disaster.

Among the most successful scenes is one set in a tiny bathroom where a young man (Keeno-Lee Hector) meets the flatmate (Colleen Nicklin) of the girl he’s just slept with. As the two struggle in the limited space to clean their teeth and wash their faces, a relationship develops.

Apart from Colleen Nicklin who is Durban-based the rest of the cast hails from Cape Town but it is the consummate comedy actor Lionel Swanson who steals the show with his versatility and impeccable timing. If there are gripes, it is that certain sketches in the second half tend to be overlong. All in all, though, a clever and highly amusing show that is well worth seeing.

Tickets at R100 include a good value three-course meal. Cellar executive chef Anthony Stacey has produced a well-chosen men with Creamed Broccoli & Beansprout Soup or Bacon & Feta Salad, the latter had just the right mix of bacon and feta. The main menu is a choice of Tangy Tomato Fish Bake or Loin of Beef Casserole. I chose the beef which was baked in dark beer, with red peppers and onion and highly suitable for the winter evenings that are drawing in. For dessert there’s Chateau Gateaux, a healthy portion of ice-cream and sponge cake, or Ice Cream Fruit Surprise.

Pick-Ups runs until July 9 and there are shows at 19h00 for 19h30 from Tuesdays to Saturdays with an extra cocktail performance on Fridays at 17h15. Sunday shows are at 18h00. Book at TicketWeb, either at the Playhouse or call 086 140 0500 or via the website at www.ticketwb.co.za




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