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Sunday, July 20, 2014


(Atandwa Kani & Sylvaine Strike)

(Review from the artSMart team from the National Arts Festival)

The planting process will never be the same again for me after seeing this production! (Review by Caroline Smart)

National Arts Festival regular, Sylvaine Strike, returned to the Festival once again this year – this time as the 2014 Featured Artist. She is also among the numerous Standard Bank Young Artist Award winners that the Festival managed to include in their extensive 40th anniversary programme.

Strike opted to reproduce her successful Black and Blue which was first performed on the Fringe Festival in 2004 in Grahamstown. In the usual festival rush, I hadn’t had time to take proper note of the other actor in this evocative piece and the young man’s appearance didn’t register. That was, until he opened his mouth to deliver a longish sentence ... and out came John Kani’s voice! The gentleman is, of course, Atandwa Kani - John Kani’s son, and his manner of speaking is almost identical to his father’s distinctive tones, modulations and articulation.

However, he is definitely his own man and his character was beautifully sympathetic and robust at the same time.

What happens is that Mrs Swart closes herself off from the world when her husband dies. Sinking into paranoia, her “blues” are reflected in her clothes, her furniture and her household surroundings. Into her life comes a genial and energetic young man who offers to work as her gardener. Initially, she is terrified of communicating with him but, as the play progresses, he engages her trust and eventually coaxes her out into her garden to enjoy the work he has done and finally get involved herself.

After one delightful scene, the planting process will never be the same again for me!

It’s the simplest of stories but Strike makes it powerful through its very simplicity. She uses very little dialogue in her productions but her merest look, smile or inclination of the head speak volumes.

Chen Naker’s set echoes the simplicity most effectively.

Strike dedicates Black and Blue to Mandie van der Spuy in recognition of her formidable patronage of the Standard Bank Young Artists Awards programme over the past 22 Years.

A decade later, the production proves that it’s stood the test of time. Written by Sylvaine Strike, James Cuningham, Helen Iskander and Danny Mooi, don’t miss it if it comes your way. – Caroline Smart