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Friday, July 5, 2013


(Toni Morkel and Roberto Pombo. Pic by Bazil Raubach)
Important new role players in the entertainment industry present quirky and eccentric black comedy. (Review by Keith Millar)

I saw the Epicene Butcher and Other Stories for Consenting Adults at the Musho! Festival at the Catalina Theatre in Durban and was very impressed by the innovation and creativity shown by Jemma Khan. So when I saw that she was part of the creative team behind The Last Show, playing on the Fringe at the National Arts festival in Grahamstown, I was very keen to see it.

I was not disappointed. The Last Show is a quirky and eccentric black comedy. While it is very different in presentation from the Japanese Kamishibai story telling of The Epicene Butcher the idiosyncratic style of Khan is very apparent, and the innovation and creativity remain the same.

The play tells the story of Ronel whose marriage has ended. She, her son Ronnie and their dog Rusty have had to move from their upmarket home in Dainfern to the harsh reality of the inner city suburb of Brixton in Johannesburg. They try to make the best of their circumstances and find ways to cope with this difficult environment. But even at this point, their jolly temperaments and false cheerfulness suggests a level of paranoia. Also the relationship between mother and son is worryingly close. Slowly as the pressures mount they spiral further and further out of control and descend into mania and lunacy. Finally a meteor strike in central Johannesburg convinces them that the end of the world has arrived.

Adding to the mayhem is a set which consists of stacks of cardboard boxes used for the move, and various electrical appliances which randomly switch on and off.

Sound effects are also extensively used throughout the play and it was to the credit of the young lady who was responsible for sound that these were all played in on cue and at the right levels.

There is plenty of humour throughout this piece, but one cannot help feeling a little uneasy for laughing at this poor family’s desperate circumstances.

The roles Ronel and Ronnie are played by Toni Morkel and Roberto Pombo. The acting style adopted is over the top and verging on comic at times. This is probably intentional as it enhances the eccentricity of the play. With this in mind, both actors can be commended for excellent and sustained performances.

Direction of The Last Show is by Jemma Khan and it was written by Gwydion Beyon. With this production both have enhanced their reputations of being important new role players in the entertainment industry. I look forward to their next offering.

If you like your entertainment a little different and a little off the wall then The Last Show is worth seeing. It will be playing at the Drill Hall daily at 14h00 until July 7. Tickets R60 (R45 children, R50 students and scholars) – Keith Millar