national Arts Festival Banner

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Rob Murray and From the Hip: Kumakuhle triumph again! (Review by Caroline Smart)

Written and directed by Rob Murray, From the Hip: Kumakuhle’s latest production is Quack, seen on the fringe of the 2009 National Arts Festival.

For those who saw their previous production Gumbo at the NAF and at the Witness Hilton Arts Festival, Quack is another triumph over disability, the kind of project that this theatre company does so well. The production is presented mainly in mime and features two hearing and two non-hearing actors but I would be very surprised if the average audience member would be able to distinguish which are which. This is what FTH:K set out to do – present good theatre that stands on its own recognisances.

In Gumbo, the cues for the non-hearing were invariably visual and the general lighting state was quite bright which made things easier. However, Quack is very moody with dark lighting and many entrances coming from behind the central double-storied platform. Therefore the non-hearing actors have to rely for cues on the backstage crew as well as from vibrations on the platform. However, at the performance I saw there was heavy pop music coming from the venue next door so this must have made it very unsettling but as far as I could see, no-one missed a cue!

The title “Quack” refers to the main character – a quack doctor who preaches about his quack remedies. Dictator-like he raises the energy of the crowd then hands round the inevitable collection plate. He extracts hope from his audiences which he distils and drinks. He is supported by two acolytes as well as a female assistant of advancing age who adores him. From his sly and devious experiments in his ivory tower, his alchemy produces a beautiful pouty childlike sprite - The Innocent, the elixir of life he so passionately seeks.

The effective set is by Jesse Kramer with costumes by Leila Anderson and sound by James Webb and Brydon Bolton. Special mention must be made of the excellent masks made by Janni Younge from the Out of the Box Puppet company.

Lysander Barends plays the alchemist, Liezl de Kock is the assistant and Marlon Snijders is the one-eyed acolyte – all three were in Gumbo. The other cast member is Taryn Bennett who played the Innocent as well as the second acolyte.

From the Hip: Kumakuhle will be bringing a play to the 2009 Witness Hilton Arts Festival. Don’t miss it – these productions deserve every support. – Caroline Smart