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Wednesday, August 31, 2011


(Barbara-Anne Puren)

Barbara-Anne Puren returns to her home town with a delightfully humorous and engaging show. (Review by Caroline Smart)

I last saw Barbara-Anne Puren perform over 24 years ago when she was a young drama student at Technikon Natal (now Durban University of Technology). Her talent was very noticeable then and she has grown into a successful, focused and professional performer. Her first one-woman show, Casual Sax which opened tonight at Heritage Theatre in Hillcrest for a short run, is delightfully humorous and engaging.

She takes her audiences on a journey through her relationships over the years, calling the process “From day dreaming to divorce to dating”. On a stage that is bare except for a chair and a modesty screen on which is draped a white feather boa, she takes a satirical look at fairytales and so-called happy endings. From growing up on the “wild, wild Bluff” to internet dating, she relates her tale with a sardonic humour, softening the barbs with a cheeky grin.

Her script often becomes sexually explicit which is why the show is not recommended for persons under the age of 16. However, she handles these moments with wit and panache and what could become tacky in less-skilful hands, is presented as sophisticated adult humour to which the audience responds with spontaneous chuckles.

At the age of 32, after her failed marriage, she took up the saxophone and is now a proficient saxophonist. This gleaming instrument provides a perfect visual accompaniment to her quirky yet elegant black dress and white culottes suit. She occasionally puts the sax on its stand so that she can move freely and at one stage, handles a provocative costume change behind the screen, saxophone and all!

Accompanied by lush orchestral backing tracks, she sings a line-up of much loved jazz classics such as Summertime, Cry Me a River, Fever, My Baby Just Cares for Me and Big Spender alongside well-chosen quieter numbers like When I Give my Heart, Cold Cold Heart and Someone to Watch over Me.

She engages with the audience without losing any of the show’s stylish nature. Even the head massage she gives a volunteer has its own appeal and becomes a performance moment. Grant Knottenbelt’s lighting design is excellent and the sound balance is good.

The menu offers Hearty Vegetable Soup, Sweet Chilli Chicken Skewers and Italian Salad for starters with main courses being Homemade Gnocchi, Oven Baked Dorado, Napolitano Chicken (very enjoyable) and Roast Sirloin (to which my husband gave his approval).

Directed by Daniel de Lange, Casual Sax has a short run at the Heritage Theatre in Hillcrest until September 4. Tickets R190 include a two-course meal. September 4 offers a lunch-time show (12h30 for lunch, tickets R165). Tickets R100 for show only (evenings at 20h30, Sunday at 14h00). The running time is about 90 minutes with no interval. Bookings 031 765 4197 or online at

Casual Sax has two performances at the iZulu Theatre, Sibaya, on September 9 and 10 at 20h00. Tickets R120 booked through Computicket. Don’t miss it! – Caroline Smart