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Saturday, October 25, 2008


(Pic: Vivian Moodley as Aru)

Amusing and sympathetic handling of issues confronting old people in an ever-changing world. (Review by Caroline Smart)

We’re all taking strain from it - battling to keep up with bond or hire purchase repayments as well as the increased price of consumer goods and petrol. The subject of the high cost of living has been tackled in an innovative way by long-standing theatre company, ENACT, which is currently offering its latest production, The High Cost Of Living, at Seabrooke’s Theatre at Durban High School in Musgrave.

Expecting the hour-long theatre piece usually associated with one-man shows these days, I was impressed to find that this is structured in two acts. The High Cost Of Living is written and directed by Hoosen Farouk Sayed, a founder member of ENACT, who makes a return to theatre after a 17-year absence.

The show stars veteran actor, director and playwright Vivian Moodley who tells the story of two friends: lonely old widower Arumugam (Aru) and his close friend playwright Runga who used to create the kind of meaningful theatre which he believed would make people better human beings.

The first act focuses on Aru who, after having led a comfortable yet humble existence in his council home for over 40 years, has been persuaded to move to his son Selva’s new home in an upmarket suburb. Missing the embracing community spirit of his former life, he has much to say about how life has changed.

His amusing meanders down memory lane and his portrayal of the various characters who have been a part of his life create much amusement. There’s Aru’s grandfather teaching the youngster how to plant vegetables; the garrulous Barber Dhani; gossipy Green Beans Auntie and her long-winded story, and the domestic worker Sindi who is hooked on TV soaps. Another fun sequence is when Aru catches Selva watching porno movies. Aru’s major irritant is his shopaholic daughter-in-law Desi (Desdemona) who he remembers aptly describing on sight as “one fast type”.

Aru goes to visit Runga in hospital – and here, the flashback scene needs stronger lighting as expressions are being missed. Runga is suffering from depression and, zombie-like, does not respond to Aru’s urgings either to eat or to start writing again.

Runga takes over as the main character after interval where we find him in the hospital ward, on the verge of discharging himself. While the setting is simple and effective, it needs more of a change here to clearly identify the new location. More upbeat than Aru, Runga is forthright in his comments on politics, women’s clothing, his concern for his old friend and Selva’s love of hiphop, especially when he’s washing his car! We get to meet Zams, a “bruin ou” in the hospital and unseen nurses who have their own agenda.

The scenes flow easily into each other and what could become maudlin has been well-handled to remain amusing and forthright. The play is written with a sympathetic understanding of the issues confronting old people in an ever-changing and increasingly fast-paced world where young people handling with ease the modern communication technology which bewilders them. There are clear social messages but these are handled with humour and were well-received by the audience.

Don’t be put off by the image on the poster – nobody hangs themselves! It’s more of an an important message about a different kind of dying, that of sedating patients into a half-life.

The High Cost Of Living runs until November 2. Tickets R70 from Computicket or by calling 084 552 4786. Organisations interested in using the production to raise funds, should call Vivian on 084 760 1096. – Caroline Smart