national Arts Festival Banner

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Collaborative production shows the strength of this year’s UKZN Honours Class. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Published in 1989, multi-award winner Timberlake Wertenbaker’s The Love of the Nightingale was commissioned for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Adapted from an Ancient Greek legend to fit a modern-day context, it presents a feminist look at the story of two close-knit Athenian sisters and the rape of the younger by the husband of the elder.

Presented by the Honours class of UKZN Drama and Performance Studies, The Love of the Nightingale has a short run at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until Sunday. It is directed by Tamar Meskin who explains that the play “asks us to think out the box about men and women, the relationship between them, and particularly about the way we interact sensually and sexually.”

A further important aspect of the production is that the project was run as a collective in which each member of the class has given input over and above their acting ability from original suggestions for choice of play to design, marketing and administration. The result reflects the strengths of this year’s Honours Class.

There is an age restriction of over-16 because the play has sexual and violent content. It shows how a weak-minded man can be driven to brutality if he doesn’t get his own way. On the positive side, it reflects the powerful and protective relationship that can exist between sisters.

Donna Steel, who alternates with Julia Wilson as the central character of Philomele, gave a very moving, sincere and luminous performance. As her elder sister Procne, Kivithra Naicker (alternating with Kamini Govender) provided the right balance of an obedient daughter and wife but evincing a steely determination when confronted with her husband’s treachery. However, I would have preferred more voice projection from her as many of her lines were lost.

As her husband, Tereus, Brett Collopy gave a sustained performance and provided the necessary brutal strength.

The remaining male members of the cast alternated in different roles ranging from soldiers to sailors and all gave consistent performances with good projection and articulation: Rowin Munsamy, Brandon Moulder, Jethro McNamee (who alternates with Brett Collopy as Tereus), Jason Barber and Vedarsha Singh.

Mention must also be made of Ainsleigh Ingle in the role of Philomele’s maid Niobe who provided much of the humour through her forthright delivery.

This is a very visual production with screened images, shadow play, dance and puppetry. Backed by shots of a desert, it could be located in any current war-torn area. The excellent lighting design is by Tina le Roux. The rest of the credits take up a full page in the programme and it is interesting to see which actors are credited with other skills. I did have a problem with the fights being choreographed in dance style which lessened the tension needed to carry the story through and I found the lingerie outfits at odds with the overall style in Itys’s death scene. Otherwise, full credit to all involved.

The Love of a Nightingale runs in the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until October 16 at 19h00. Tickets R40 (R20 students, pensioners and block bookings over 10). For more information, and to book, contact: Claudette Wagner on 031 260 3133. – Caroline Smart