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Friday, October 28, 2011


Janna Ramos-Violante impresses with new script. (Review by Caroline Smart)

The inaugural I ♥ Durban Theatre Festival, which runs over this weekend until October 30, is currently introducing a tangible festival spirit into the leafy surroundings of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s drama department on the Howard College Campus.

The brainchild of award-winning actress, director and writer, Janna Ramos-Violante, and local entrepreneur, Lauren Wallet, the I ♥ Durban Theatre Festival is supported by KickstArt and is something that should appeal to lovers of good theatre, both young and old.

It’s also an event which I believe will become entrenched as an annual festival of theatre and the kind of exciting and pro-active happening that will grab the interest and support of the notoriously laid-back Durban theatre-going public.

The festival is staging seven plays, three of which are premieres. Adding to the festival vibe are children’s shows, a funky craft market, live music and delicious cuisine.

I wasn’t able to attend the festival’s opening night yesterday but caught up with the vibe this evening to review Callum’s Will. There is a definite celebratory atmosphere in the three venues involved in the festival: the Square Space Theatre, Studio 5 Theatre and the Open Air Grass Gardens (the area adjoining the Pieter Scholtz Open Air Theatre)

Following her Mein Soldatwhich had all-too-short a season as part of The Playhouse Company’s New Stages Festival, Janna Ramos-Violante presents a new comedy drama featuring Darren King and Clinton Small titled Callum’s Will, which she has written and directed.

The title resonates on a number of levels and this two-hander firmly places Ramos-Violante as an exciting new South African writer to watch with interest. Her understanding of the many facets of drama is seen in her exploration of the silences that can make theatre so powerful. She also has a good feel for ironic humour and there are many delightful lines and spunky wisecracks in this one-act play.

Callum’s Will is set in a London Council Estate in the early 90s. Darren King plays the irritable Callum, a former ballet dancer who is now confined to a wheelchair after being crippled in a road accident. Into his well-ordered but listless and lonely life comes the cheeky Will, played by Clinton Small. Disarming and casually-dressed to the point where he offends Callum’s sensitivities, he has been employed to handle jobs or run errands for Callum.

To do justice to a Ramos-Violante script, the actors need to tread that dangerous edge of holding silences and pauses to just the correct length. There is a poignant scene where Callum listens to one of his scratchy records and, moved by the music, can only use his arms to dance. Both King and Small give fine performances and make us believe in this unlikely relationship between a former professional international ballet star and an outspoken sloppily-dressed youngster from the wrong side of the tracks . Their interaction starts off as defensive on both sides but slowly relaxes until each trusts the other. Callum becomes more relaxed while Will becomes better dressed!

The inaugural I ♥ Durban Theatre Festival runs until October 30. Callum’s Will has one more performance tomorrow (October 29) at 14h00 in the Square Space Theatre. Tickets R80 (PG 13) I do urge you to see it. – Caroline Smart

For full details of the festival, visit