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Friday, December 5, 2014


(Andy Turrell & Aaron McIlroy. Pic by Val Adamson)

One of McIlroy’s finest shows to date. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Originally directed by Steven Stead for the 2014 Hilton Arts Festival and featuring Aaron McIlroy in all his powerhouse energy, The Ranga has just opened for a short season in the Playhouse Drama.

The musical comedy takes a tongue-in-cheek look at people with red hair. It takes its title from the word ‘ranga’ which is derived from ‘Orang-utan’ (red haired monkeys) and is a term used to describe people with varying shades of red hair.

Good to see McIlroy back at the Playhouse which is where he started his professional career in the early 1990s as a member of The Loft Company. Its many groundbreaking and innovative productions clearly demonstrated McIlroy’s growing capacity as a highly skilled serious actor. However, it wasn’t long before McIlroy realised that his best ability lay in making people laugh and he has done this highly successfully, performing his madcap but thought-provoking shows on a national scale.

The Ranga is yet another madcap but thought-provoking piece, the Playhouse Drama stage presenting no obstacle for a red bewigged McIlroy to bounce into the auditorium to prey on a hapless soul to the delight of the audience. It is also one of McIlroy’s finest shows to date.

We are at the opening of The Ranga Cultural Centre which is situated on the Red Rover reservation, celebrating 25 years of the Ranga Rights Movement. McIlroy, whose last job involved armpit sniffing for a deodorant company, invites the audience to have an authentic Ranga experience. These will include learning about traditional songs including a traditional lullaby called Someone Ate the Baby (getting the picture?) Performing with him is guitarist Andy Turrell who McIlroy confidentially explains was considered a girl when he was born and called Sue.

The show is designed and lit by the highly-skilled Michael Broderick and features a hessian-covered hut structure surrounded by a jumble of props including a tree trunk with a small monkey in a cage. In Turrell’s space are a couple of guitars and percussion instruments. Normally performing in the background as a band member, this time Turrell is very much part of the show. He is a perfect foil for McIlroy’s energy, presenting a delightful deadpan outlook throughout and stolidly obeying McIlroy’s barked orders! He is an utter delight as well as being a fine musician.

The humour in The Ranga is often completely outrageous. There is much music in the show – lots of it full of toe-tapping energy but we do get to hear the real McIlroy in a few emotive numbers such as Days Like This and Starry Starry Night.

Presented by MacBob Productions in association with The Playhouse Company, The Ranga runs in the Playhouse Drama until December 14 with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 19h30 with 15h00 matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets R150 booked through Computicket on 0861 915 8000 or online at as well as via the Playhouse Box Office on 031 369 9540 (office hours). – Caroline Smart