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Monday, August 21, 2017

DEATH OF PETRA PAGE



(Petra Page)

Former marketing manager of NAPAC (now the Playhouse Company) passed away on August 13.

NAPAC colleague and friend Charles Grey, announced on Facebook: “It with a sad heart that I hereby announce that ex marketing manager of NAPAC, Petra Page has sadly passed away. This is such sad news - I worked with Petra Page at NAPAC for over 5 years and I served on her fundraising committee when she headed up the fundraising department at the Cancer Association. We really had some wonderful times working together. She was such a colourful character who taught me all I know about classic marketing and fundraising. My sincerest condolences to her family. Petra may you rest in peace.”

Her daughter Tarin Page Persson says: “I know many of mum’s friends abroad were not aware that she was ill, but Petra was diagnosed with cancer just over a year ago. Sadly mum passed away yesterday afternoon, just after 5pm in New Zealand. My husband Brett and I were with her.

“Mum has been very active, social and independent and maintained that right up until recent months. Just last week she moved into a care facility (Mercy Hospice in Auckland) where they made her very comfortable. She still had some very bright days where she was entertaining visiting friends and enjoying the company of her grand-daughters, almost right to the end.

Mum found it hard to share this news personally with many of you, especially those overseas. It is always emotional saying goodbye. But she wanted you all to know that she had been thinking of many of you, that you all added so much laughter, fun and great memories to her journey. For that, she was grateful. As am I”.

DETROIT



A brilliantly made film that on the surface lays bare the vicious racism among the police and, to a lesser extent, the national guard, during the riots. (Review: Patrick Compton - 9)

The Detroit riots may have taken place 50 years ago, but Kathryn Bigelow’s latest film, which generates plenty of fear and anger, speaks eloquently of present-day American troubles.

Detroit is the American director’s second quasi-documentary after Zero Dark Thirty, this time focusing on the killing of three African-Americans at the Algiers Motel during the riots that took place in July 1967.

It’s a brilliantly made film that on the surface lays bare the vicious racism among the police and, to a lesser extent, the national guard, during the riots. More seriously, however, it vividly portrays how racism was a structuring fact of American life at the time.

The movie begins with a superb animated sequence that provides an historical context to the Detroit troubles; it then dramatises the incident that began the riots, after the police break up a welcoming home party for a group of returning Vietnam veterans at a “blind pig” unlicensed after-hours bar. As the revellers are thrown into police vans a bottle is thrown, and all hell then breaks loose. Within a week, 43 people had been shot dead, 1189 injured, 7000 arrested and 2509 businesses or homes looted or burned.

Bigelow’s regular scriptwriter, Mark Boal, makes it clear that that the incident at the blind pig was the last straw for the city’s black inhabitants who had suffered victimisation for years.

The extent of the problem is symbolised by the Algiers killings which form the film’s central narrative plank and a horror movie all its own within the wider context of the film. The police break into the motel’s annexe after responding to fears of sniper fire from the building and there follows a reign of terror during the night when a number of innocent people are tormented – and three killed – by a group of racist cops.

The film is, however, not simply a blow by blow description of what happened, either at the Algiers or elsewhere. The action is bookended by a mini-drama that took place with a (real life) Motown group called The Dramatics who got sucked into the riots. In many ways, the climax to the film with the lead singer in the group (well played by Algee Smith) gives the movie a sweeter aftertaste than you might otherwise have expected.

The movie’s cast is led by John Boyega who gives an impressively powerful performance as a reserved black security guard, Dismukes, who is an observer, albeit a largely helpless one, during the Algiers nightmare. The cops, played by Will Poulter, Ben O’Toole and and Jack Reynor, are suitably hateful.

Bigelow meshes documentary footage of the riots with fictional dramatisations of what they calculate actually happened at the motel. Sadly, aside from the sub-plot about the music group, there are no hopeful endings here, with the legal aftermath simply confirming the racist character of 1960s’ America.

Detroit is a movie Donald Trump should see in this time of Black Lives Matter, although one hesitates to predict that his reaction would be an appropriate one. For the rest of us, Bigelow's film is a must-see, and with any luck a local film-maker will be inspired to follow in her footsteps with a similar offering relating to the Marikana massacre.

Detroit opened in Durban on August 18. – Patrick Compton

TRIBUTE TO PINK FLOYD



Durban musicians are to stage a tribute show celebrating the career of British classic rock band Pink Floyd.

Titled In The Flesh, there will be performances at the Norwegian Hall in Musgrave and a further performance at the Allan Wilson Shellhole in Pietermaritzburg.

Pink Floyd’s music, apart from one or two well-worn standards, is too complex and diverse to be easily recreated in a local context, so to set out to do so is quite audacious. Durban band Templar Funk are building a reputation for audacity. Nonetheless, in this case they’re calling in some distinguished friends to lend a hand.

Templar Funk is a three-piece rock band, consisting of Neil Ford, Steven Squier and Ross Tapson. They form the core of the line-up doing the show, which is: Dulcie Erasmus (keyboards/vocals); Neil Ford (bass); Grant Halliday (drums); Steven Squier (guitar/vocals); Ross Tapson (guitar/vocals) and Martin Sigamoney (saxophone).

All of these veteran musicians live and work in Durban, and individually and collectively enjoy the respect and affection of audiences and peers alike.

The show will explore aspects of the Pink Floyd repertoire that haven’t been extensively covered, even by Pink Floyd themselves, so fans can expect to hear well-loved classics that they may never have heard performed live before. The albums Wish You Were Here and Momentary Lapse of Reason inform the particular highlights of the evening.

Three performances of this show are scheduled so far:

August 25 and 26: Norwegian Hall, 214 St Thomas Road, Musgrave, Durban
September 1: The Allan Wilson Shellhole, 5 Alan Paton Ave, Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg

Tickets can be booked at through 081 755 9479, 076 536 9658 or quicket.co.za

Sunday, August 20, 2017

TIE A KNOT IN IT (VEGAS BABY!)



(Rowan Bartlett, Darren King & Brian Hiles)

Plenty of exuberant fun and hilarious humour to go along with the wonderful music. (Review by Keith Millar)

I think it is safe to say that Darren King, Rowan Bartlett and Brian Hiles are among the better-known Durban stage personalities. For years, their names have appeared on the billboards of most of Durban’s foremost stage productions. From children’s theatre to pantomime to the big musicals.

That they can sing there was little doubt as many of the productions they appeared in were musicals – and Brian Hiles, superlative interpretation of Mr Cellophane in Kickstart’s’ production of Chicago earlier this year is still fresh in the mind. But I venture to suggest that theatre fans by and large would have regarded them as actors who could sing.

Well, all that may have to change now after their dazzling performances in their musical cabaret revue Tie a Knot in It (Vegas Baby). Based on the skills they displayed in this production, any one of them could be a singing star in their own right. Together they are absolute dynamite. After this they could be regarded as singers who can act.

Tie a Knot in It is a playful, irreverent and highly enjoyable romp around the entertainment capital of the world – Las Vegas. Along with all the joshing, fooling around and mad-cap behaviour, the cast re-count many off-the-wall facts about the city. They also perform many of the magnificent tunes from the stars who have made the city famous.

The trio promises “Slick moves, witty banter and smooth music” and they deliver by the barrowload. The music of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack feature strongly with standard such as Ain’t That A Kick In The Head, Fly Me To The Moon, Mack The Knife and Mr Bojangles.

Sinatra and his daughter Nancy also get a look in with Something Stupid with the rather large Bartlett hilariously playing Nancy wearing a silly wig and ridiculous eyelashes.

Among other songs we were treated to were Robbie Williams Angel, the Williams’ version of Me and My Shadow, Michael Bubble’s Moondance and Sway, Peggy Lee’s Fever, Barry Manilow’s Copacabana and from Elvis You are Always on My Mind and American Trilogy.

And that was just the first half of this two and half (interval included) long show. Maybe a tad too long? I think not. It certainly had the energy and entertainment value to sustain it to the end.

Included in the second half is music by the Andrews sisters, Britney Spears, more Frank Sinatra, a duet from Billy Joel and ray Charles, Lisa Minnelli, Harry Connick Jr., Elton John, and the Beatles. An absolute smorgasbord of good fun and good music.

Brian Hiles even gave a very good impersonation of an operatic tenor with Placido Domingo’s Perhaps Love, joined by Bartlett as John Denver.

The undoubted musical highlights of the show were the trio’s spine tingling version of American Trilogy and the finale which was a breathtaking acappela version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

Throughout the show Hiles, Bartlett and King play around, tease each unmercifully, and just generally have good fun. They use variety of props such as wigs, hats, feather boas and headdresses which, along with their considerable knowledge and experience of stagecraft, ensures that they make the most of every situation. The result is plenty of exuberant fun and hilarious humour to go along with the wonderful music. It is feel-good show which leaves you with a smile on your dial for some time after.

This was my first visit to the Rhumbelow theatre at Tina’s Hotel and I found it to be a well-appointed and very pleasant venue. However, if you wish to eat at the hotel - get there really early. Their kitchen is apparently not capable of getting a meal out within an hour and 15 minutes prior to the show. What you are left with is the choice of eating from a buffet of rather sloppy-looking and expensive stews, or go hungry, as I did.

They also for some inexplicable reason refuse to serve food in the show venue.

Tie a Knot in It (Vegas Baby) will be appearing at the Rhumbelow Theatre Umbilo early in October. Do yourself favour and get to see it. You won’t be disappointed. Tickets R150 with special concessions for loyalty card holder, pensioners and large groups. The venue opens 90 minutes prior to the show and braai fires will be available for those who wish to braai. There is limited parking available at Rhumbelow. A cash bar is available (no alcohol may be brought onto the property.

Booking is essential and may be done via Computicket or by contacting Roland at 082 499 8636 or at roland@stansell.za.net – Keith Millar

THE CHRONICLES OF JACK




(Brian Duma, Sbonelo Nzuza & Malusi Buthelezi)

#thestruggleisreal! (Review by Verne Rowin Munsamy)

The Courtyard Theatre is no stranger to new South African Theatre, as it often bears witness to the talent that is fostered in the Drama and Production Studies Department. This time it is the turn of Mbasa Tsetsana, a talented young writer, theatre actor and director from East London. Tsetsana has written for Muvhango, ETV and now turns his attention to the stages of The Courtyard with The Chronicles of Jack.

The Chronicles of Jack, directed by Sphephelo Dlamini and Dr Pamela Tancsik, reveals the life of a young artist who wins a bursary to study the performing arts in Johannesburg. He leaves his mother, friends and home to seek his fortune in the city of Johannesburg as an artist. It true metatheatre style, the story reveals the struggles of becoming an actor whilst also dealing with socio-political issues like homophobia, Xhosa rituals of going to the mountains to become a man, absent fathers, overbearing mothers who remind us of the struggles of June 1976 and our current #feesmustfall.

The cast, ranging from first to third year students, perform rap battles, song and dance routines. Brian Duma offers a confident and sophisticated performance throughout, along with Zizipho Nontso as the overbearing and stern mother, Malusi Buthelezi the absent father and Professor, and Sbonelo Nzuza as the hero Jack. Standing out of the crowd of 25 or so extras was Minenhle Mhlamvu who exhibited great energy and conviction to his various roles.

I did feel that the show was a little too long at two hours and the pace lagged a little. There were inconsistencies in the transitions and the blackouts did not help to continue the flow of the piece. Perhaps the narrator figure could have been used more to transition from scene to scene and the set up of chairs, for example and amongst other things, could have been sped up.
Well done to the team involved for engaging in new theatre that spoke the issues of the students trying to make it into the industry. -  Verne Rowin Munsamy