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Tuesday, February 21, 2012


(Mothusi Magano with Allison Cassels in the background)

Neil Coppen’s sensational dramatic comedy a must-see in Durban

Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Drama in 2011, Neil Coppen’s latest stage work has its Durban premiere season at The Playhouse from March 16 to 31, before transferring to the Market Theatre in Johannesburg in April.

The new play by the creator of the widely admired dramas Tin Bucket Drum and Tree Boy, Abnormal Loads is presented by Think Theatre in association with The Playhouse Company, with support by the Catalina Unltd, Arts and Culture Trust and The National Arts Festival.

This critically acclaimed work, which swept the boards when it opened the 2011 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, is set in a fictional battlefield town in the once war ravaged valleys of Northern KwaZulu-Natal. It has been described as a breath-taking amalgamation of ghost story, love drama, historical epic and dark comedy…a lyrical (at times bloody) praise-poem to the Province of KZN and its myriad of characters and cultures.

The play’s protagonist is Vincent Bashford, a mixed-race descendent of the town’s founding father, who grows up alongside his conservative colonial grandmother, Moira, on a small-holding outside of the town. After 29 years spent in relative isolation, Vincent begins to dream of an escape. Spurred on by his new friend, Katrien Joubert, the rebellious 16-year-old daughter of the NG Kerk dominie, and Moira’s domestic worker, Prudence, the three youngsters begin to unravel a series of secrets and events that connect them across time, memory and history.

With a narrative that whisks audiences through two centuries of South African history, Abnormal Loads presents a theatrical universe where the past runs in tandem with the present. The play takes an irreverent look at how history is misconstrued to suit the individual’s needs, while offering a humorous reflection on the many contradictions and complexities of life in small town South Africa as events shift seamlessly from the grandeur of a battle-field in 1879 to the intimacy of the bedroom in 2011.

Written and designed by Neil Coppen, the production is directed by Coppen and Jana Ramos Violante. It features a multi-talented cast comprising some of the country’s finest talent, including Allison Cassels, Mothusi Magano (of Totsi and Plein Street fame) and Jenna Dunster (Isidingo), with Fortunate Dhlomo, Ntombikayise Gasa, Nhlakanipho Manqele, Clinton Small, Thomie Holtzhausen and Nosipho Bophela.

Once again Coppen has collaborated across disciplines and mediums to bring his new work to life. Movement, sound, music, multi-media and shadow combine to create a arrestingly original theatrical experience.

Lighting design by Tina le Roux and sound design by Tristan Horton offsets an original score by Gary Thomas. The production’s Heliograph Hill is designed and built by Xavier Clarisse. Audio visuals are by Vaughn Sadie and additional period costuming by Julia Wilson and Neil Stuart-Harris. Military uniforms are by courtesy of The Dundee Die Hard re-enactment group.

Abnormal Loads runs in The Playhouse Drama from March 16 to 31. Previews are on March 16 at 19h30 and March 17 at 14h30. Opening night is March 17 at 19h30. Performances during the run are Tuesdays to Saturdays at 19h30, with 14h30 matinees on Saturdays and Sundays (no evening shows on Sundays). No show on Wednesday 21st (Public Holiday). The production offers powerful socio-historical perspectives for school learners, and two morning schools performances will be given on March 22 (no evening show).

Early booking for this hot-property production is strongly advised. Call Computicket on 0861 915 8000 or book online at Alternatively call Playhouse box office hotline 031 369 9540 (office hours). For school bookings and group bookings call Margie Coppen on 083 251 9412.