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Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Pic: Meren Reddy and Leeanda Reddy

Hilarious two-hander one of the most entertaining theatre pieces of 2008. Review by Shika Budhoo)

The comedy drama, Buckled which opened in the Playhouse Drama on December 19 to play to five sold-out shows was one of the most entertaining theatre pieces I witnessed in 2008.

Buckled is the hilarious two-hander on marriage - the bliss, the woes and every nosy Parker, starring Leeanda Reddy and Meren Reddy. Leeanda Reddy, most recently popular for her role as Priya on SABC3’s Isidingo and Meren Reddy a popular theatre performer and known for his role on City Cesla. The actors (not actually married to each other) play the couple as well as various other characters that intrude in their lives and relationship. This piece of authentic theatre is directed by the well-known former Durbanite, Krijay Govender. From the makers of last year’s popular Queens of Comedy, Buckled presented the story of a young Indian couple, how they meet, fall in love and are now in preparation mode for the big day … the day they get BUCKLED.

The two Reddys convey the story through various extraordinary characters including a nosy old grandmother, Shalendra (the groom), Young Yash (the bride), Young Shelendra, the ‘old-school’ science teacher, a Muslim cook, Yash, Yash’s maid Strelitzia (Meren), Yash’s father (Leeanda), the photographer, Shalendra’s dominating interfering mother, ‘Action’: the gay Indian decorator with an American accent, and not forgetting drunk Uncle Eric (Leeanda).

The Story: Former school friends Yash (Leeanda) and Shalendra, are getting married … Yash is the beautiful bride to be from a well-to-do family … and Shalen the modern Indian guy from a loving home with an interfering mother. The play opens with Leeanda playing Shalendra’s Granny who is complaining about Shalen not being able to find his briefs and is about to get married …We are taken back in time when we are given a flashback to when the geeky younger Shalendra and a rotund younger Yash were schoolmates; Yash brings her father’s eye to school for science class ‘Show And Tell’ and Shalen, after poking and teasing from Yash about wetting his pants, steps on her father’s one eye … half-blinding him for life … this scene was a hilarious interpretation and presentation of typical Indian children in an Indian school with extremely witty repartee kicks off the plot of buckled.

From here on the two actors prepare for their wedding, we see hilarious interactions between mother and son, father and son-in-law, grandmother and grandson and other dynamics expected during a typical Indian wedding, with all its grandeur and complications. There are gripping characters - for example, the melodramatic photographer who pours out his woes; the interfering mother who manipulates and gets her way, she is quoted to have said to her son, the groom, “you are obviously mistaken, my boy… you think you are having a wedding … no! ... your mother is having a function”; the Zulu maid Strelitzia who is completely involved in the Indian culture, Bollywood and all … the drunk Uncle Eric played superbly by Leeanda, who comfortably crossed the gender barrier and presented an authentic example of the type of Uncle you ‘have’ to see at the night-before-the-wedding jol.

Sets changes were elaborate, with the stage transforming almost every five to seven minutes, scene changes were swift and covered by clever crowd-appealing music, which was either familiar or added to the atmosphere of the scene preceding or following.

The playlist included popular tracks like the A Team theme song, Love and Marriage, Staying Alive, Chunari Chunari (from Monsoon Wedding), Justin Timberlake I’m bringing sexy back, how will I know if he really loves me, the Frog mix and penny lover, amongst others…

After a little break-up just before the wedding because of cold feet and relationship differences, the couple in the final scene come together with every intention to spend forever together…

The entire story takes place in front of elaborate sets, with each scene change quick and impressive, making ample use of the technical facilities that the Playhouse Drama has on offer… my favourite setting was the flashback to when Shalendra proposed to Yash, the entire backstage was covered in floor to ceiling fairy lights, a giant tree, a very post-modern white tree centre stage, with a picnic bench and a picnic spot set up…. a beautifully comic scene with hilarious consequences that wowed the audience. On the technical side, the scene during which Action, the hired decorator sets up the hall in a manner of a conductor of an orchestra, is a brilliant example of all aspects of the theatre coming together in a brilliant theatre moment.

Buckled, is a brilliantly written piece of art, entertainment and a great vision on the festivities of the Indian wedding. The play was brilliant in all aspects from direction, performance, set changes, lighting and sound…a true theatre piece with all the components working to their optimum. Meren Reddy’s performance was as impressive as he always is, with a stirring display of different accents. Leeanda Reddy’s performance was outstanding beyond comparison, every character she portrayed was alive with truth and her comic timing is unlike any South African female actress I’ve seen recently.

If you missed this show, you’ve missed out… it is a show that entertains all, you need not know anything specific about Indian culture or weddings to enjoy this work of art, and if you do know what to expect from the typical Indian wedding experience, all the more reasons to attend. The short run at the Playhouse Drama from December 19 to 21 was sold out. There is no news so far as to its return to the East Coast but if it does return, be sure to book a seat – Shika Budhoo