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Sunday, December 13, 2015


(Paul Slabolepszy as the handyman)

Top-notch production full of clever gags and witty dialogue. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Paul Slabolepszy is a multi-award winning South African comedy legend and in For Your Ears Only directed by Ralph Lawson, you don’t just get to enjoy his writing but see him in action as well.

The play is set in a radio drama recording studio and he is the maintenance man, Nigel. A master of malapropism. If there isn’t enough drama with the cast trying to record a series of a soapie close on deadline as well as inner tensions between them, he bumbles in throwing his weight around bashing mic stands to fix them, hauling in a fire extinguisher, fixing things that aren’t broken (like trying to oil the creaking gate), sniffing out dog mess on people’s shoes and getting his words mixed up in the process. At one point, he finds the studio empty and “discovers” the microphone. Here’s his chance to show he can sing (he thinks!) and do a vast array of animal sounds. A sublime performance!

Playing Denton, the drama director, is another theatre legend, Michael Richard. In his 40 year career he is no stranger to radio drama and is well-known for his voice-over work. Denton is not having a good day – his leading man is hours late, his leading lady (who happens to be the leading man’s wife) is throwing tantrums, the writer is challenged by the cuts that need to be made, the young actress is offering advice and the young actor standing in for the hero is bemused by the whole process.

This bemusement gives Denton the opportunity to explain to him how a drama studio works. He takes him around the room showing him the vast array of things that make up the magic of radio - such as the gravel boxes (for footsteps); the stairs, the doors with bolts and chains; telephones, crockery, keys, glasses and the wind machine.

This is when audience members unfamiliar with the workings of a radio studio should take note because at the end they will get to see all these features incorporated in the recording, especially a large punch bag with accompanying baseball bat!

I was sitting in the audience next to artSMart co-reviewer Keith Millar and between us we have a long history in radio drama – he as a drama sound technician and me as an actress/director. We give Ralph Lawson’s set full marks. It’s absolutely perfect. At the SABC, we also had a maintenance man come into the studio one day armed with an oil can to fix the creaking gate!

The leading lady is Veronica, a true drama queen, played by Louise Saint-Claire (who is married to Michael Richard in real life). She puts in a splendid performance as her character’s moods alternate from gentleness or bitchiness to hysterical laughter or pure rage.

The leading man, the self-opinionated Harold, is played by Durban actor Michael Gritten whose skill in acting haughty comes to the fore in this role. Bheki Mqadi is a delight as the much challenged actor/playwright Bra Doc and Sibu Radebe adds to the fun as Tumi who is more comfortable on a TV set than in a radio studio. As Pearl, Bronwyn Van Graan brings charm to the role of the young actress who has a secret that is in danger of being discovered.

This volatile relationship between cast and director often erupts into complete mayhem but the inimitable Ralph Lawson directs it all with a firm hand, keeping things from going out of control.

Don’t miss this top-notch production. It’s full of clever gags and witty dialogue. Paul Slabolepszy is also Head Writer of Radio Vuka  and some of the play’s characters feature in this Safm radio play.

For Your Ears Only runs in the Playhouse Drama until December 23 and booking is at Computicket on or from the Playhouse Box Office on 031 369 9596. Pensioners and scholars under 18 secure discounted tickets on presentation of ID. For block bookings which offer a discount of up to 20% off the usual ticket price, contact Dawn Haddon on 031 369 9407. – Caroline Smart