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Saturday, August 30, 2014


(Lisa Bobbert & Aleks Robertson. Pic by Val Adamson)

Play showcasing Lisa Bobbert’s impressive skills is perfect for the Women’s Arts Festival. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Forming part of the Playhouse Company’s 2014 South African Women's Arts Festival is the compelling drama, Shades. It is written by Scottish playwright, novelist, screenwriter and former actress, Sharman Macdonald. She is also the mother of film actress, Keira Knightley.

Shades is currently presented in the Playhouse Loft and director Ralph Lawson who also designed the set, has placed the major part of the action on a revolving stage while using the rest of the space for scenes that take place outdoors. While Shades is originally set in Glasgow in the 1950s, Lawson has placed it in a South African context. The production is enhanced by Mike Broderick’s lighting design.

It’s a long time since I’ve seen the revolve used in the Loft and it’s very effective. I know what a mission it is to get sets and major props up into this space which was created as an “afterthought” when the new Playhouse complex was produced by merging two buildings, the Prince’s Theatre and the Playhouse, in the 1980’s.

The main setting is the bedroom of Pearl, a 38 year-old widow with a ten-year-old son, Alan. She finds herself at a crossroads in her life. Still mourning her husband, she battles with her natural desires for love, sex and companionship. The play opens as Pearl is preparing for a date with Callum but Alan is trying to put obstacles in her path as he feels that his future is at stake. Alan has his own insecurities and a thunderstorm doesn’t help. Neither does the impending visit of his grandmother!

To many, Lisa Bobbert is seen as a comedy performer, whacky and hyper-energised, and she seldom gets the chance to play a part that reveals the true nature of her talents. The role of Pearl is multi-layered and complex, requiring the actress to balance fun and a motherly nature with loss, despair and longing as well as a capacity to grasp and accept the future. Shades showcases all Bobbert’s impressive skills and her emotional collapse after her date didn’t turn out the way she expected was beautifully handled.

As Alan, young Aleks Robertson is a perfect foil for Bobbert. Again, this isn’t just a role to be taken at face value. The young man is bright and articulate but his insecurities come out when he challenges or insults his mother. It’s the only way he knows to fight something he is afraid of. There are some beautiful scenes between mother and son.

Jane Ross is effective as Violet, the mother from hell, constantly criticising Pearl and belittling her. A total antithesis to her vibrant daughter, she is dressed in a dowdy outfit, but has a delightful pair of slippers! Louis van Eerden handles the role of Callum with charm while having to cope with the realisation that Pearl is not emotionally prepared to commit to another relationship.

Shades is presented by arrangement with DALRO. Performances take place in the Playhouse Loft today (August 30) at 15h00 and 19h30 as well as on Sunday (August 31) at 15h00. Booking is at Computicket or the Playhouse Box Office. – Caroline Smart