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Saturday, November 15, 2008


Pic: Pranesh Maharaj (front) with Lovie Ramas Rai, China Ngejane, Dawn Stardler, Anesh Dusrath, Zaid Bhoola and Rahul Brijnath

Consistent and humorous performances from new faces on the mainstream theatre scene. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Theatre practitioners Pranesh Maharaj and Anesh Dusrath created Polart Productions some five years ago as an initiative to assist disadvantaged artists take their work forward. Their latest project is Cassandra @ No 77 which opened this evening at Suncoast Casino’s Supernova Theatre for a short run of three performances.

Since Cassandra @ No.77 was showcased at the Bat Cafe co-directed by Pranesh Maharaj and Vivian Moodley as development work earlier this year, it has grown into a two-acter which was seen at the ABH in Chatsworth in September.

Described as comedy that offers a different and possibly lighter look at society’s ailments, Cassandra @ No 77 is played on a split set – the one side being the home of sassy but bored Cassandra (Dawn Stardler) which she shares with her smooth-talking volatile boyfriend Selvan (Rahul Brijnath). The other side reflects a space that could be anywhere - in the closing scene it represents the area outside No.77 when we discover what Cassandra really does for a living!

From her window, Cassandra can see the movements of the zany occupants of the road. There’s the endearing lanky all-arms-and-legs Sticks Naidoo (Anesh Dusrath) who has aspirations of owning his own airline company – but this one’s different. As he tells the new love of his life, dancer Tashmika Harilal, he’s not having any of that in-flight video nonsense. He’s having a proper stage. She wants pink curtains – those aircraft blinds are boring!

Sipho Gumede (China Ngejane) is forever looking for a job, his last one having posed a number of difficult problems. He’s also open to any suggestions to further his income and, from the little he does earn, he’s determinedly saving up for a “Special Day”.

Junaid Hussein (Zaid Bhoola) is a dedicated film-goer, prone to loudly offering his support or comments to his favourite stars up on the screen but intolerant of a young child behind him bashing his cinema seat.

From the depths of the auditorium comes dotty Uncle Daya (Lovie Ramas Rai) who is robustly waging his own personal war against aliens – which, he explains, manifest themselves in the form of snails (particularly at Home Affairs!) and mosquitoes and we should all be warned about this phenomenon!

Director Pranesh Maharaj has skilfully moulded his cast members - who are mainly new to stage work - into a cohesive whole where the performances are consistent and well-disciplined. I have worked with most of these actors in the Lotus FM drama programmes and, in the case of China, on stage, so I know their dramatic capacity. It’s good to see them being given a chance to further these skills through the energies of Polart.

As it grows in this large cinema venue where the cast have to be miked, the production will improve with each performance and, I predict by its last show tomorrow night, it will rattle along!

There are two more performances tomorrow (November 15) at 18h00 and 21h00 at Supernova at Suncoast Casino. Bookings and information from Suncoast booking office on 031 328 3000 or Anesh Dusrath on 079 882 2351 - Caroline Smart