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Wednesday, July 20, 2016


(Bongani Mbatha. Pic by Val Adamson)

This is South African talent at its best. (Review by Keith Millar)

Award winning playwright Clinton Marius’ romantic comedy one hander, Sweetie Darling, first saw the light of day at the Musho! Festival in January this year. In the process it won both the Suliman Family Award and received a special mention in the Audience Favourite Awards.

I was fortunate enough to see that production, and I enjoyed it very much.

I wrote at the time that it was an enchanting production and that Marius’ script was clever, witty and insightful, and that while most of the humour is situational, there were many topical quips which were quite hilarious.

I also said that Marius’ understanding of the characteristics and nature of a culture other than his own was quite remarkable.

Of actor Bongani Mbatha, I commented that he brought the script alive and that he created a lovable and vulnerable character in Jacob.

I also said that he is a charming and affable performer, and that he has lovely comedy timing. His portrayal of all the peripheral characters is accurate, funny and perceptive.

So what has changed since then, considering that the production has had a few incarnations, including a run at the National Arts Festival as well as the Wits Festival, and is now enjoying a season at the Loft Theatre at The Playhouse?

Well, at the Musho! Festival it was a bit like a talented teenager. Showing considerable potential for the future but with signs of nerves, and uncertainty. It was, after all, a premiere - Mbatha, despite his previous experience as an actor was out of his comfort zone - and scriptwriter/director Marius still had a few nuts and bolts to tighten.

Now that teenager is all grown up and the potential has been realised. There is a new sense of confidence and poise in Mbatha’s performance. There is no loss of the likeable and affable charm or the vulnerability he brings to the part. He is pacing his performance much better and his excellent comedy timing remains.

Marius has not had to do much tweaking to his script. It remains multi-layered, hugely insightful, very clever and hilariously funny. In sporting parlance, Marius is in the form of his life and is producing work of impressive quality

The story, very briefly, is about Jacob who having lost his parents at a young age has had to rear his sister and support his Gogo. He has never had time for girlfriends, but now feels the need to settle down and get married. He joins the church choir and meets Nosipho, his Sweetie Darling. After many trials and tribulations in his attempts woo her, he invites her to a picnic. The action in the story takes place while he is setting up for the picnic.

Despite being a one-hander there are many delightful characters on display – all played with aplomb by Mbatha. There’s his mischievous sister, Miriam; his Gogo; his gay hairdresser; Back Pocket, his rival for Nosipho’s affections; the Choirmaster; the Pastor; his employer, Mr Wang, as well as others. Mbatha manages to create a wonderful group of colourful characters, using nothing more than a tablecloth, a serviette and two hankies as props.

My recommendation in January was that this was a most enjoyable production and one not to be missed – and this certainly has not changed. This is South African talent at its best.

Sweetie Darling will run in The Playhouse Loft until July 24 with performances at 19h30 from Tuesday to Saturday (July 19 to 23), and on Sunday (July 24) at 14h30. Tickets R50 (Tuesday and Wednesday) and R85 (Friday to Sunday). Booking is through Computicket on 0861 915 8000 or at Bookings can also be made via the Playhouse Box Office on 031 369 9540 (office hours). – Keith Millar