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Wednesday, June 8, 2011


(Director Rob Klarmann with Menzi Mkhwane and Bheki Mkhwane)

Dramatic two-hander from father and son crackles with energy and dramatic content. (Review by Caroline Smart)

The recently-formed Just in Time Productions presented their fourth production in repertory this evening in the Playhouse Loft with Belly of the Beast. This follows the equally successful Sitting around the Fire; A Plague of Heroes and uThembalethu /Tshepang, all except A Plague of Heroes featuring Bheki Mkhwane.

If these four productions are anything to go by, lovers of good drama can expect some excellent work in the future from Just in Time. Stakeholders of this innovative new theatre company include veteran theatre producer / director Maurice Podbrey together with Bheki Mkhwane and cultural administrator, Ntuthuko Khuzwayo. Their aim is to create and stage new South African work as well as produce classic South Africa plays.

Directed with sensitivity and control by Rob Klarmann, Belly of the Beast is a two-hander based on Dhaveshan Govender’s Legacy which appeared at the Musho! Theatre Festival in January this year. The characters now take on a tougher edge with the older man, Samuel, being an ex-MK soldier whose wife Martha was also highly placed in the struggle movement.

It’s a good set with comfortable chairs and a settee, a kettle (there for a good reason) and teacups set out on a trolley, a coffee table complete with fringed shawl and two impressive Zimbabwean sculptures. All very homey and well-to-do. However, the intruder that Samuel finds in his home one evening is not there to rob any of this wealth. He has a long-held mission to accomplish and the play is based on this journey of twists and turns until finality is reached.

As we pick up the story, it is Martha’s birthday although she’s not there to enjoy it. She was the victim of a hijacking one year ago and Samuel still carries the pain of being powerless to stop it.

This is a good vehicle for Bheki Mkhwane as it showcases all his skills. There is much endearing banter as he talks to Martha, even offering her a cup of her favourite Earl Grey tea which he sets beside the lighted candle in front of her photograph. Then there is the forceful power of his voice and presence as he challenges his intruder as well as his moments of calm reasoning and caustic comment.

Bheki Mkhwane is a tough act to follow but who better to be walking in his shoes – and doing extremely well in the process – than his son, Menzi Mkhwane. In the role of Thami, the younger man, he gives as good as he gets, often matching Bheki’s vocal power. Many of the interchanges between them crackle with energy.

Belly of the Beast is an hour long with no intermission and runs until June 19 in the Playhouse Loft. There will be day-time week-day matinees for school groups, on request. For more info, contact Rob Klaarman on 072 816 8727. Concessions – R30 throughout for students with ID / OAPs with ID / block bookings of ten or more. Booking is through Computicket (083 915 8000) or; or through the Playhouse box office on 031 369 9540. – Caroline Smart