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Sunday, May 5, 2013


(Vivian Moodley & Bassy Bhola)

Accomplished actors take an amusing and engaging meander down the old Grey Street days. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Currently running at Catalina Theatre is Quarter Beans Bru produced by the Dingalings, a Durban theatre company which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary. Dingalings started off with stand-up comedy and Yugan Naidoo’s Comedy Shop. Since then, they have gone from strength to strength, producing a number of shows a year – mainly comedy –and invariably performing to sell-out houses from their loyal and supportive fan base.

Their latest offering is a two-act play written and directed by Yugan Naidoo which features two of Durban’s most well-known Indian actors/stage personalities: Vivian Moodley and Bassy Bhola, who themselves represent an impressive contribution to Durban’s theatre history.

Quarter Beans Bru is all about history. It’s set in Patel’s Refreshment Lounge in Grey Street, formerly a buzzing trading area occupied by Indian traders and the best place to find a good tailor or buy the glorious exotic material only India can produce. The play reminds audiences of the Goodwill Lounge, the Shah Jehan cinema, golfer Papwa Sewgolum, gangsters like the Crimson League and The Zealots as well as the game of fa-fi.

Loosely translated, in old time Grey Street parlance, Quarter Beans Bru means “One bunny chow, my brother”.

For the uninitiated, a bunny chow is half a loaf of bread scooped out to make way for a large dollop of curry, after which the item is topped with the bread that was removed. Its origins seem to be varied but one thing is for sure, it’s a popular food item enjoyed on a wide scale even outside the Indian community and is as much a part of Durban as the old Grey Street itself.

Patel’s Refreshment Lounge is run by its owner (Bassy Bhola) and his assistant (Vivian Moodley). The assistant refers to the owner as Lahnie (boss) who in turn refers to his assistant as Lightie (younger male). They have an easygoing relationship and there is much good-natured banter as they go about the day’s work. We meet them on the day before celebrity chef Keith Floyd comes to film the shop for his television show. The play picks up after the shoot and their recounting of it is very amusing.

As the comings and goings of customers and friends make up their days, the two actors take on other roles – Moodley as the beggar and Bhola as the arthritic old man. Among their (unseen) customers is Vijay, a university student who has come to find out the recipe for bunny chow, much to their amusement.

Both actors acquit themselves well and this is a good vehicle for Moodley’s versatility and his singing skills while the ending allows him to display his strong dramatic ability. They have some delightful lines between them but the best for me was the comment that “The British can’t teach us spin-bowling – it’s in our eating habits” – referring to the twist of the wrist used when eating!

I normally revolt at the use of microphones for drama in a theatre the size of Catalina, However, with Catalina’s invidious extractor fan noise, at least every word in this play was audible. Although I would have preferred the actors to have had their mics placed in the more effective way – on their hairline rather than taped to their cheeks.

Quarter Beans Bru will surely go forward and tour so I would suggest that before it does so, it could do with some judicious pruning. There is a highly dramatic twist which would benefit with stronger “planting” earlier on.

Quarter Beans Bru runs at the Catalina Theatre, Wilson’s Wharf, until May 19. Shows Thursday to Saturday at 20h00 (Sundays 14h00 and 18h00). Tickets R100 booked at Computicket or 0861 915 8000 or online at

For more information, contact Catalina Theatre on 031 837 5999 (between 10h00 and 16h00) or visit or - Caroline Smart