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Sunday, September 30, 2012


(Andre Jacobs & Mbulelo Grootboom)

Review of the production at the 2012 Witness Hilton Art Festival by Caroline Smart

Mike van Graan’s three-hander Just Business was first staged as Hostile Takeover by the Market Theatre on the National Arts Festival’s Main Programme in 2006. Now substantially rewritten, it still resounds – as its publicity material says – as a scathing, provocative satire on the economic practices and associated morality of the “New South Africa”.

Marcel Meyer’s set impresses as you walk into the Grindrod Bank Theatre. There are three platforms with the centre one containing a sunken area which turns out to be a grave. Dominating the theatre space is a huge billboard containing the image of a pair of elegant legs clad in glamorous high-heeled sandals, which continues onto the floor as belonging to the scantily-dressed body of a woman. This refers to the “girlie” club run by Hannes van Wyk, a slippery former employee in the National Party government’s Foreign Affairs Department.

Van Wyk has incurred the interest of BEE-conscious, Johnny Mabuso and his Chinese partners who want to take over his business – therefore he needs to be removed. Mabuso spends much time with his blow-up sex doll, treating it as a live consort. There is a very amusing scene when he explains to her the make-up of a wine list.

Van Wyk is now digging his own grave with a gun pointed at his head by a large man in black, Mr September (Kurt Egelhof). Mr September is a former freedom-fighter and considers himself a pragmatic fellow. His job as a hitman – he doesn’t charge VAT and even offers different rates - is just a means to an end and he wants to get on with this commission and move onto the next as quickly as possible.

However, Mr September hasn’t reckoned on van Wyk’s gift of the gab - or his long-term capacity to get out of trouble - so he finds himself drawn into analytical conversation aimed at changing his mind.

As in the first version of this play, van Graan pulls no punches in his commentary about greed and enrichment in post-1994 South Africa.

Directed by Fred Abrahamse, Kurt Egelhof, Andre Jacobs and Mbulelo Grootboom put in excellent performances, keeping the action tight and compelling and doing fine justice to the humour content. The tables are continually turned in this thought-provoking play – confidences are shared while deals are made and broken. Don’t miss it, if it comes to a theatre near you! Just be warned that the play contains strong language and is not recommended for sensitive patrons or those under 16. – Caroline Smart