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Friday, September 11, 2015


(Pranesh Maharaj as Balram)

Pranesh Maharaj again considerably impresses with his performance. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Polart Productions has brought back Bhagwan Gave Me This Life by popular demand to the Catalina Theatre under the title God Gave Me This Life. This time the percentage of the language content – Hindi and English - is reversed so I took great pleasure in being able to fully understand and appreciate the storyline and much of the humour.

God Gave Me This Life is written and directed by Vivian Moodley and stars Pranesh Maharaj, who once again considerably impressed me with his performance. The original set, designed by Reasha Maharaj with support from Sandra Maharaj, is still effective and the surrounding greenery adds to the authentic look of a humble home in an Indian community.

We encounter Balram, a grey-haired warmhearted but lonely man, as he potters around his garden inviting the birds to come for their seed. Responding to his calls of “chirayya” (literally “birdie”), a brightly-coloured bird lands next to the seed dish and it is to this feathered friend that Balram shares his memories.

Taking on numerous roles – the most amusing being those of his two aunts – Maharaj effortlessly holds the audience’s attention for the duration of this well-written one-act play set in Inanda in 1981. The cast of characters he portrays is wide-ranging and the mood changes are highly demanding.

Bhagwan Gave Me This Life was first produced in 2013. At the time, I remarked that I was a little hesitant about reviewing it because I am not conversant in Hindi and, indeed, much of the play was beyond my grasp.

However, comments from my review for artSMart dated December 17, 2013, are still valid.

While being fascinated by my exposure to the language, my response to the text was diminished. However, my visual sense certainly was not. It allowed me to watch Pranesh Maharaj, a highly talented actor I have worked with in stage and radio productions, give his all as the character of Balram who we meet at a major turning point in his existence.

I am well aware of Maharaj’s talents but this production offers the chance for him to showcase them all. Enacting certain scenes from his memory, he shows his versatility in speech and body language, often breaking into song while using a paint tin as a drum or dancing in true cultural fashion. An accomplished storyteller, he runs the gamut of emotions from engaging joviality, forceful command or drunkenness to uncertainty, poignant tenderness or devastated grief. It all leads up to a dramatic ending.

God Gave Me This Life runs until September 13 at Catalina Theatre, Wilson’s Wharf. Performances take place on September 11 at 20h00 and September 12 and 13 at 14h00 and 18h00. Ticket prices R120 with various discounts. Booking is at Computicket and all Shoprite Checkers outlets. – Caroline Smart