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Saturday, March 5, 2016


(Jonathan Cohen)

A very special performance and astute direction. (Review by Keith Millar)
Award winning playwright Clinton Marius’ play White Christmas first saw the light of day at the Musho! Festival two years ago. At the time I commented that the production was a bit rough and ready and needed more work to tighten it up, but that it showed great potential.

Well, I am pleased to say that the new incarnation of this work, currently on at the Seabrooke’s Theatre at Durban High School, triumphantly lives up to that potential.

This partly autobiographical, tragi-comedy one-hander showcases Marius’s skill and insight as a writer as well as his superb use of the English language. He has dug deep into his childhood and upbringing to create a meaningful piece of theatre which is thought-provoking, emotional and thoroughly entertaining.

White Christmas tells the story of the Van Niekerk family who travel to Park Rynie on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast every Christmas for a caravan holiday. They always book the same site, set-up camp in the same way, follow the same routines and take part in the same activities. It is a fine family tradition and has created wonderful memories.

This year is the same and we meet young JP Van Niekerk (played by Jonathan Cohen) as he prepares the family camp. While he goes about his business, he introduces his family in loving terms. They are underprivileged, unpretentious people who are salt of the earth.

He introduces his father as a sensitive and supportive character and his mother as a single-minded, matriarchal, religious and strict individual, who rules the roost. He is particularly close to his elder sister, Chalet, who is a strong willed, ambitious but a loving person.

Marius’ development of these characters is excellent. The fondness and admiration with which he describes them and their actions poignantly reveals that they are, in fact, based on his own family.

As JP delivers his monologue while setting up camp and discussing his family, one can’t help but get the feeling that all is not well. At times he is uneasy and pensive and seems to be worried about something. The reason for this becomes apparent with the play’s alarming ending. Moving into the realms of fiction it is dramatic, shocking, intense and unexpected.

Jonathan Cohen’s performance is very good. He keeps the audience transfixed form beginning to end of this rather wordy production. He displays excellent timing and his mood swings throughout the piece are very convincing.

The emotion, vulnerability and intensity he shows towards the end of the play is quite breathtaking and had more than one audience member in tears.

White Christmas is a beautifully written piece. But it is the type of production which needs a very special performance and very astute direction to bring it to life. On this occasion this has, with distinction, happened.

Presented by Copydog Productions, there are two more performances of White Christmas at Seabrooke’s Theatre at DHS: today (March 5) at 19h30 and tomorrow (March 6) at 14h30. Tickets R90 and booking is through Computicket 0861 915 8000 or Secure parking is provided. - Keith Millar