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Sunday, July 26, 2015


(Musa Ntuli & Shona Johnson play Junior-Junior & Storm. Pic by Val Adamson)

A great concept, a kind of double-whammy treat! (Review by Ralph Lawson)

Many of us will recall, fondly, the halcyon days of radio which, before the advent of TV in South Africa, provided us with hours of varied and wonderful entertainment. Gathered around the 'radio set' to hear a play, we were engaged by some simple sound effects and a handful of versatile actors and our imaginations did the rest. No location was too exotic, nor could it disappoint. For we were caught up and transported by what SAfm aptly called the 'Theatre of the Mind'.

Thanks to the formidable talents of director Caroline Smart, writer Clinton Marius and an engaging and talented cast the radio serial is alive and well and, after a knock-out run of 800 episodes on Lotus FM, Lollipop Lane is back in a new and exciting format.

Copy Dog Productions have, cleverly, revived the practice of recording in front of a live audience and turned the Catalina Theatre into a studio, complete with microphones and sound effects and, of course, the full cast of zany characters in the latest series, Lollipop Lane: The Beauty Spot.

I was amazed by the expertise with which the actors handled the daunting task of juggling the necessary technicalities with split-second comic timing. They use scripts, of course, as they would in the conventional confines of a studio-without-audience, and some costume accessories add to the fun; but dealing with a live audience requires a degree of expertise which they appeared to master with ease. They never missed a beat as the motley assortment of weird and whacky residents of a block of flats 'where the lift doesn't quite go to the top floor' and it's little wonder that the likes of Mrs Sing-Singh and Mrs Sing-Song, Aunty, Mrs Khan, Edith McDoodle, Shirley, Cassandra, Raj and the rest have become such firm favourites.

It would be unfair to single out any one performer as they all delight in equal measure, but Shona Johnson 's versatility as two characters – one of them the dim-witted  Storm – was particularly impressive. And there was an unobtrusive contribution from three expert sound engineers who captured five episodes for posterity – including audience reaction, ringing telephones, banging doors and rattling tea cups - with smooth aplomb.

The recordings will be broadcast by Tape Aids for the Blind on their DSTV channel and, thanks to initial assistance from the KZN Performing Arts Trust and recent funding by the National Arts Council, the project is set to go forward with three more series.

It's a great concept, a kind of double-whammy treat, following the machinations of the characters of a 'soapie' while watching the actors at work at the same time – and contributing to the fun with laughter and applause. There was certainly no shortage of either on the night I was there. – Ralph Lawson

There is one more performance of "Lollipop Lane: The Beauty Spot" this afternoon (Sunday, July 26) at 15h00 at Catalina Theatre. The next series "All About Shirley" will be presented at Catalina in September.