national Arts Festival Banner

Friday, October 30, 2009


(Pic by Val Adamson: Darren King and Loyiso Macdonald)

Excellent performances from Darren King and Loyiso Macdonald in Manuel Puig two-hander. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Skilfully directed by Clare Mortimer, Darren King and Loyiso Macdonald put in excellent performances in the two-hander, Kiss of The Spider Woman which has just opened at the Catalina Theatre.

On the surface, the storyline appears heavy and potential audiences might feel diffident about seeing a production about two prisoners – one gay, one straight - stuck in a cell with the one being regaled with the other’s ideas stories based on the plot of one of his favourite films, a wartime romantic Nazi thriller.

Don’t be put off. Manuel Puig has incorporated all the good elements of drama into his play which has a good mix of humour, pathos and an underlying current of tension. Darren King, possibly more widely-known for his appearances in pantomime and music revues, shows his strong dramatic skills in portraying Molina, a complex effeminate character under pressure from political peers. Loyiso Macdonald is certainly one of our rising stars and he gives just the right edge to his role as Valentin which requires him to be pragmatic, sensitive and introspective but passionate about his political cause. Despite their opposite characters, their incarceration brings them closer together, each forming a dependency on the other. They escape their loneliness and unhappiness through Molina’s imaginative screenplay. The sex scene is sensitively handled.

Argentinean playwright Manuel Puig has had much success with this play which was adapted into a musical and then into a film which garnered awards for its screenplay and an Oscar in 1986 for Best Actor in a Leading Role for William Hurt (Molina) who played opposite the late Raul Julia. The play focuses on Puig's constant theme of the development and mutation of relationships beneath the culture in which they exist.

The setting is a Brazilian prison cell and Clare Mortimer and Themi Venturas have created an effective set, with Valentin’s bed placed centrestage and Molina’s raised bunk offering different levels of action. Further interest is added with photographs of movie stars, newspaper cuttings and cluttered paraphernalia of a miniature gas hob and “treats” which Molina claims comes from his mother. But is he really telling the truth …?

Mention must be made of Peter Court’s (unseen) role in voice-over as Molina’s manipulator. What a delight to hear his rich tones handling dramatic dialogue with just the right touch of menace.

Kiss of The Spider Woman runs at the Catalina Theatre from until November 15. Tickets R65 booked through Catalina Theatre, Strictly Tickets, or Going Places. To book call 031 305 6889 or email

Catalina Theatre Tickets are now available online at or at or at /

The Catalina Theatre is still functioning thanks to support from Rainbow Chicken, National Arts Council and Ethekwini Municipality. – Caroline Smart