Nicely put together production and quite entertaining. (Review by Keith Millar)
At a time when theatre in Durban is facing many challenges and most productions are struggling to attract audiences, one has to admire the confidence and courage of the young people who have established a new production company – Blank Canvas Productions - and are forging ahead despite the odds.
Formed in 2015 they staged their first professional production, It’s Not Your Fault, earlier this year, and are currently staging a romantic comedy titled Love?, at the Seabrooke’s Theatre at Durban High School.
The members of Blank Canvas Productions are very young. Some of them are teenagers and still at school. Taking their youth and lack of experience into account it must be said that they do an admirable job with the production of Love? The script is funny, the acting is good, the direction acceptable and the set is clever.
The only problem – if it is a problem – is that it is a play presented by young people for young people. The dialogue is idiomatic to young people and there are references to cult phenomena such as, for example, Games of Thrones which left me mystified. This may limit their audience to a younger set who are not part of what may be considered as regular theatre attendees.
The production is also a little underdone and lacks a certain finesse and refinement. These are elements which come with experience. Blank Canvas should consider tapping into the pool of expertise and experience which exists in the industry in Durban to assist with their development. The very experienced theatre director in my company on the night identified many moments which could be developed, or expanded upon, to the benefit of the production.
Love? is written by James Jooste. As with It’s Not Your Fault he has developed a group of characters which are engaging and recognisable. The story, in typical romantic comedy style, is about a sweet and naïve young lady, Eliza, who moves from the farm to an urban environment to pursue her studies. To earn some money, she gets a job in a quirky café in the town called Bake My day. There she meets a group of madcap characters and before long love blossoms amongst this group.
Jooste’s dialogue is witty, full of puns and by and large very funny. Particularly the first half when the story rollicks along very entertainingly. After the interval when the wheels started coming off the relationships and then tragedy struck, it felt as if the story seemed to be a bit contrived and clichéd.
As Eliza, Carey Swan puts in a charming and vulnerable performance which got stronger as the story unfolded However, the star of the show was Lerato Xaba as Kathryn, the sassy, wisecracking waitress, who is perhaps not quite as together as she would like everyone to believe. It is a plumb role - very well written – and Xaba makes the most of it.
Bronwyn Botha as Lucy, the owner of the café, also does very well even though she seems to be a bit young for the role.
Maxim Birch as Will, Casey Milledge as Devon and Richard Scates as Adam also put in pleasing performances with Milledge as the way-over-the-top wannabe actor possibly the pick of the bunch.
The café set, where all the action takes place, is well thought-out, except for the bar which is much too big and intrudes into sightlines.
Taking into account all the circumstances Love? is nicely put together production and quite entertaining. It could however be so much better. Though, given the enthusiasm and pluck of the Blank Canvas Productions team I would bet on them producing work of a very high standard sometime in the future.
Love? runs at Seabrooke’s Theatre at Durban High School (DHS) until August 21 with performances from Tuesday to Saturday at 19h30 and Sunday at 18h00. There are matinee shows on Saturdays at 14h30. Tickets R100 (R80 students under 18/seniors over 65) available at Webtickets. (Block bookings via email: James@blankcanvasproductions.co.za or call 078 019 5950) – Keith Millar