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Wednesday, March 30, 2011


(Africa Majola, Kurt Keough, Trent Webster & Rowan Peterson)

In his Director's Note in the programme, Colin Chapman explains that he chose the play The Outsiders by Christopher Sergel, based on S E Hinton's novel of the same name, as it has a majority male cast, is not often done and the novel is often read at school level. It proved to be a very good choice and under his strong direction, the large dedicated cast worked hard on their roles. This resulted in a very stout effort from the large cast of 21 Durban High School (DHS) pupils, augmented by cast members from Maris Stella and Our Lady of Fatima schools.

The play is set in the world of gangsterism in America in the 60s when the Greasers and the Socials were at loggerheads and constantly fighting. It was very dangerous for a member of one of the gangs to be walking alone at night. The story is told through the eyes of a Greaser, Ponyboy Curtis (Trent Webster), as a school assignment. The trials and tribulations of belonging to a gang are detailed as well as the strain it places on family members and friends, particularly as he does not fit the mould of a Greaser gangster.

In addition, as the youngest of three orphaned brothers, he is severely bossed by the oldest, Darry (Kurt Keugh), who had to drop out of school to handle two jobs to look after his two brothers and battle to keep the family together. The middle brother, Sodapop (Rowan Peterson), happily dropped out of school to work as a petrol attendant.

Ponyboy has two very good friends Two-Bit (Africa Majola) and Johnny (Kyle Trytsman) and while at the cinema, Two-Bit - who really fancies himself as a ladies' man - tries to pick up Cherry (Erin Passmore) who is there with her girlfriend Marcia (Ruth de Cerff). Although completely unsuccessful, this has serious ramifications as she is the girlfriend of one of the Socials (knows as Socs), Bob (Slaine Spaan).

The result is a rumble, a la West Side Story very well staged by means of a simulated strobe lighting effect. This results in Ponyboy fatally stabbing Bob and he and Johnny run away to escape the law. They hide in a Church which unfortunately catches fire. Ponyboy and Johnny valiantly rescue children from the conflagration and Johnny becomes a hero. Unfortunately he is badly injured and ends up in hospital. Ponyboy's brothers, Darry and Sodapop, are distraught and try to find him.

A strong theme of the play is the need to find "gold" in everyone with whom one associates, which will ultimately ensure the progress of humanity. There is good in everyone, illustrated by Cherry and another of the Socs, Randy (Kyle Smith) testifying in Court on how the fight in which her boyfriend Bob was stabbed originated.

Trent Webster handled the demanding role of Ponyboy very well. He is onstage for almost the whole play and was very convincing. He was ably supported by the other leading roles. Kurt Keough as the oldest brother looked the part and was believably domineering or compassionate, as the occasion demanded. Rowan Petersen as the middle brother was a sympathetic sibling trying to keep the peace between his brothers. Kyle Trytsman and Africa Majola, as Ponyboy's two friends, made the most of their roles and they made a good team with palpable synergism among them. Erin Passmore and Ruth de Cerff as the two girls looked the parts and were good ambassadors of their schools.

As the play is set in the United States, the cast had to contend with American accents. To their great credit, the leading characters maintained their accents well throughout the play, as did the smaller supporting roles which included Brendan-Lee Johnson as Dallas, an angry young man, Justin James as Mr Syme, one of Ponyboy’s teachers, and Silo Sithole, the sympathetic Doctor who attends to the injured Johnny.

The small stage of the Chris Seabrooke Theatre was used well with the stepped lounge of the home where the brothers live being depicted on the left side by means of a couch, an easy chair and a small table. This left the rest of the stage open for the rest of the action, a bus stop, the open area for the fight, and other confrontations, props to depict the Church and later the hospital bed. The action moved smoothly with Ponyboy stepping to the front to address the audience on occasion to further the narrative. This was very effectively done. Unfortunately. the moving of props and furniture to set some of the scenes broke the mood on occasion and it is a pity this could not have been accomplished more quickly. Appropriately, when it came to the curtain calls, these were led by the backstage workers. It was a nice touch to give them credit as it is usually only the actors who receive the accolades in any play.

The play only had a short run from March 22 to 25 at the Chris Seabrooke Theatre, DHS. I went on the second last night which was sold out and the audience was mostly school children, no doubt friends and relatives of the cast. Although the play is a drama, a large part of the audience sadly were noisy giggling school girls. Very much to the credit of the cast, they were not fazed and continued with their excellent performances. Hopefully, as the youngsters are exposed to more theatre, they will learn appropriate behaviour. I must add, though, that in other ways their conduct and manners were beyond reproach. – Maurice Kort