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Sunday, August 25, 2013


(Sweetness Ngobese as Eva and Kwenzokuhle Brilliant Ngcobo as Peron. Pic by Val Adamson)

Successful student production in the Playhouse Drama. (Review by Keith Millar)

The Durban University of Technology’s Department of Drama and Production Studies, under the leadership of HOD Professor Debbie Lutge, has staged some very good productions this year at their intimate Courtyard Theatre on the campus.

So the time was ripe to create new challenges for the students. To get them to step out of their comfort zones, stretch their wings and try something a bit more ambitious. The venue chosen for this initiative was the Playhouse Drama and the production, the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical, Evita.

Presented in partnership with the Playhouse Company, Evita is a brave and imaginative choice. It is a multifaceted and extravagant production with a huge cast, many costume changes, a live orchestra and brilliant moving sets. However, as a result it serves as the perfect vehicle to expose the young artists to all the intricacies of a professional theatre production.

The musical Evita is based on the life of Eva Perón who was Argentina’s controversial first lady from 1946 to 1952. As an illegitimate 15 year-old, she escaped from a dirt-poor existence to the bright lights of Buenos Aires. Driven by ambition and blessed with considerable beauty and charisma, she was a starlet at 22, the President’s mistress at 24 and the first lady at 27. She died from cancer at the age of 33.

Eva Perón was a saint to the working classes, despised by the aristocracy and mistrusted by the military. In her brief life, she created a unique political legacy which is as complex as the woman herself. Her story is told through a compelling score that fuses an eclectic range of music from choral to Latin, jazz and pop.

The production features a cast of 60 DUT 1st, 2nd and 3rd year undergraduate students. By and large, they are equal to the challenge of the production and perform with passion, enthusiasm and flair. There was certainly no sign of first-night nerves.

Sweetness Ngobese delivers a fine performance as Eva Perón. She shows all the vulnerability, compassion and cunning which were part of this woman’s complicated character. She also has a very good singing voice. Her delivery of the show’s best-known song, Don’t Cry for me Argentina, was particularly memorable

The role of the sardonic narrator Ché is well-handled by Brian Khawula. He had a few shaky singing moments but I am sure he will settle into the role over the next few performances. Juan Perón is played by Kwenzokhle Brilliant Ngcobo who was suitably imperial and commanding as the President of Argentina.

Singer Agustin Magalia, who was one of Eva’s first lovers, is played by Sandile Magagula. His performance of the song On This Night of a Thousand Stars is very enjoyable, as is Puleng Motloli’s rendition of Another Suitcase In Another Hall.

DUT seems to be a little short on strong male voices and this was aggravated by sound problems which were particularly apparent in the song Rainbow Tour. However, as this was the first performance, I am sure it will be sorted out.

The production is directed by Debbie Lutge who did a fine job with the large cast and the constant action. Set design is by Derek O’Toole, choreography by Mduduzo Mtshali and musical direction by Madlen Tzankova. This accomplished team has combined to provide the student performers with a wonderful opportunity to develop their skills and perform in an professional environment. The period costumes designed and co-ordinated by Nellie Ngcongo and Debbie Webster also played an important part in giving the production a sense authenticity.

Evita is a very successful student production. As such, it deserves the support of Durban audiences. It runs in the Playhouse Drama until August 30 at 19h30 with a further performance on August 31 at 14h00. Tickets R60 (R20 concessions) booked through Computicket. More information from Lebohang on 031 373 2194. – Keith Millar