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Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Craig Morris, Gerhard Bester and Rayzelle Sham

Just as much an exhilarating experience second time around. (Review by Caroline Smart)

I saw Bar Flies at the 2008 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and I caught it again at the Witness Hilton Arts Festival this last weekend. It was an equally exhilarating experience the second time around and I make no excuses for quoting from my 2008 review as my response to this riveting production hasn’t changed.

“The setting is a bar with a deceptively slim counter – obviously far sturdier than it appears – ringed with metal bar stools and offset by the odd table and chair.

The barman (Craig Morris) arrives at work, tidies up the place, sets his glasses and bottles and waits for his customers. He isn’t kept waiting long – enter a drop-dead gorgeous redhead (Rayzelle Sham) in a slinky sensuous dress. She is the object of his desires and he’s putty in her elegant hands.

Following bar code rules, which require him to be virtually invisible and not engage in full-on conversation unless it’s initiated by the other party, he silently fills her glass with wine. She savours the smell, the appearance and the initial taste, before getting down to the serious business of drinking – a lot! Aided and abetted, you understand, by our ever-attentive barman.

Then in walks big trouble and major competition in the shape of a macho cowboy (Gerhard Bester) who is so wound up in his own ego and slicking back his hair that he takes a while to notice the redhead. They eventually become hypnotised with each other and launch forth into the Argentine tango while the barman does his level best to separate them, without much success.

This is a brilliant piece of physical theatre where every nuance, come-hither raised eyebrow, sexual glance or extended leg speaks volumes. All three are such splendid performers, you feel frustrated that you sometimes can’t watch all of them at the same time.

Roslyn Wood-Morris has created exhilarating on-the-edge (literally!) choreography, with the bar counter taking the brunt of all three bodies as they hilariously get in each other’s way. The more the two drink, the more seemingly uncoordinated they become but one false move here would surely result in broken arms or legs! At one stage, Rayzelle (in stiletto heels) and Gerhard were teetering on the cushioned top of the bar stool. I think I stopped breathing at that point for a few moments!”

This time, I was able to concentrate on the stunning sequences that had impressed me so much the first time around, closely observing the skilled footwork and impeccable timing. I again ached at Craig Morris’s dejected barman frantically trying to draw the woman’s attention away from the cowboy and I’m still gobsmacked by the bar stool sequence. I’ll see Bar Flies again any time it comes my way!

Choreography is by Roslyn Wood-Morris and cast. Set Design by Roslyn Wood-Morris and Lighting Design by Barry Strydom. – Caroline Smart