national Arts Festival Banner

Saturday, August 4, 2012


(Fiona Ramsay and Tony Bentel)

Opening the Playhouse Company’s 16th South African Women’s Arts Festival (SAWAF) is a riveting dramatic piece starring one of our finest actresses, Fiona Ramsay, as a lounge singer on a cruise liner with the equally formidable Tony Bentel in the role of the piano player.

Sailing Somewhere is written by former South African, Matthew Hurt, who now lives in London. He describes it as “a one-woman play with songs”.

The play covers a range of emotions for the singer when she is forced to confront her past because the imminent docking of the liner means a possible reunion with Zoe, her estranged daughter. A vital factor of her relationship with Zoe is filled with guilt and she is completely defeated as to which way to turn. Conor Mitchell’s songs provide a further emotional journey for her through his lyrics.

The script is full of mood swings and painful memories – some too painful for her to bear. She is at sea in more ways than one.

However, this is one forthright survivor lady so there is much playful and ironic humour along the way. Whether in an elegant sequinned evening gown, a comfortable dressing gown or a stylish raincoat, Ramsay brings her considerable skills to bear at being cheeky, loving, sensitive, angry or bitter.

Tony Bentel is a superb and supportive accompanist and although he doesn’t utter a word, his presence and ironic facial responses speak volumes in a scene where they are both seated on the piano stool.

I first saw this production on its “maiden voyage”, as it were. The world premiere was held at last year’s Witness Hilton Arts Festival where it was presented in the Grindrod Bank Theatre, a space way too big for it. (Review at

I looked forward to seeing the work in the more intimate space of the Playhouse Loft and I wasn’t disappointed. The Loft is perfect, allowing the audience to connect with Andrew Botha’s effective set, which suggests the close confines of ship life. We are able to move easily with the singer from her position at the microphone in the lounge to her cabin bathroom and living area.

Hurt’s vision is safe in the hands of both acclaimed director Vanessa Cooke and Ramsay herself, who gives a tour de force performance. It’s a good choice for the Women’s Arts Festival. Don’t miss it.

Produced by Mark Hawkins Sailing Somewhere only has two more performances; tomorrow evening (August 4) and Sunday afternoon (August 5) in the Playhouse Loft. Booking is through Computicket on 0861 915 8000 or The Playhouse Box Office on 031 369 9540 or 031 369 9596. – Caroline Smart