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Saturday, September 27, 2008


Powerful drama at Hilton Arts Festival is edgy, poignant and superbly presented. (Review by Caroline Smart)

One of the highlights of the drama productions of the 2008 Witness Hilton Arts Festival was the Market Theatre’s Dream of the Dog, written and directed by Craig Higginson based on the original direction by Malcolm Purkey.

This edgy, poignant and superbly presented piece of theatre reminds us how powerful a drama can be, given the right ingredients. The script is succinct and solid with disturbing moods on several levels, while allowing for eloquent sections of poignancy and sadness. The action allows for much ironic humour but leaves no room for confusion in what could be a convoluted interpretation of a complex story.

The well-chosen cast members glide easily into their characters – each clearly interpreted. Diminutive Vanessa Cooke gives a beautiful performance as the feisty Patricia. A 60 year-old farmer’s wife, she is a birdlike figure, bowed down by fear, a delusional husband and the immediate prospect of leaving her remote KwaZulu-Natal farm which has been sold to make way for new development.

Into her life comes a figure from her past who is also a major role-player in the property’s future. This is Look Smart, who grew up on the farm during which time he and Patricia had a warm and trusting relationship. Towering above Vanessa Cooke, Mncedisi Shabangu exercises the right control over the varying moods and unpredictable tensions of the play.

As audience members, we are on the edge of our seats wondering what Look Smart’s purpose is and whether violence and revenge is on his agenda. Memories are seen from different perspectives. He presents an ominous presence – she firmly stands her ground. Their scenes are electric.

Peter Terry is forthright as Patricia’s vague – or is he? – husband and she handles him with a laconic forbearance, the way one would a wayward child. Short-tempered and impatient, he unwillingly sets out to do Patricia’s bidding which is to head for an outlying area of the farm to exhume some precious remains.

Playing the part of the loyal and gentle Beauty, Given Lunga provides a luminous character who also carries the burden of a terrible secret. There is an endearing moment when – on exiting a scene - she casually removes from the surrounding chaos an object which Look Smart could possibly use against her mistress.

Hats off to stage management and whoever was in charge of sourcing props – the set is a logistical nightmare! The stage is strewn with old trunks and suitcases amid the chaotic muddle of belongings that a couple such as Patricia and her husband would have amassed over the years.

Considering its setting, it would be good to see this production have a longer run in KZN – Caroline Smart

For more information on “Dream of the Dog” contact