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Saturday, May 6, 2017


(Nat Ramabulana & Kate Liquorish)

A sensitive, moving and meaningful production. (Review by Keith Millar)

The Playhouse Company’s New Stages Season is all about staging authentic South African works which are both entertaining and creative, but also leave audiences with food for thought.

With the powerful and moving production, Crepuscule, they have achieved their aim with distinction.

Crepuscule is adapted for stage by Khayelihle Dom Gumede from the real-life story of the celebrated short story writer, Drum magazine journalist and political activist, Can Themba.

It tells the story of Temba’s relationship with a white woman which was, in the 1950’s decidedly taboo. The love affair is set against a background of the idealised and revered world of the Johannesburg township of Sophiatown, during a time of forced removals and police raids.

To complicate matters the woman, is married to a wealthy businessman and Themba not only already has a girlfriend but also has to deal with a disapproving mother and friends.

Gumede, who also directs the production, uses a gentle touch, tinged with humour, rather than a sledgehammer in the telling of this story. As a result, it is all the more poignant and profound. He won the Naledi award for Best Direction in 2016 for his work on this production – and one can see why.

The script, which is excellently written, is delivered with great sensitivity by the very strong ensemble cast.

In the lead roles are Nat Ramabulana as Can Themba and a beguiling Kate Liquorish as his romantic partner Janet. They put in stellar performances which bring to life this intense and compelling, but illicit, love affair which is ultimately doomed to failure.

Lerato Mvelase plays dual roles as singer Baby and the mischievous totsi Kleinboy. The fast talking Kleinboy provides much of the humour in the play and is quite a delightful character. The only question mark is the repeated use of the slang term “my Bru” which I am not sure was in use in the1950’s.

Others in the cast are Nhlanhla Mahlangu as Stan, Matthew Lotter plays Malcolm, and Thami Ngoma plays Ous Lethabo/Mama Dora/Sis Pretty. All put in strong and thoughtful performances which add greatly to the success of the production.

All the cast are on the stage for the duration of the production. If not as extras, then preparing the next set or changing costumes. Clever lighting highlights the area of the stage where the action takes place while everyone and everything else disappears into the background. It is an interesting and clever technique but at times I felt that all the “off-stage” activity was a bit distracting.

My only serious gripe is that it is a lengthy play at 1 hour 45 minutes and without the break. The awful seating in the Loft Theatre was uncomfortable at the start and positively painful by the end. Also, the air-conditioning was inadequate for the theatre which was capacity.

That having been said, Crepuscule is a sensitive, moving and meaningful production. It received a much-deserved standing ovation last night, and I am sure you will feel the need to do the same if you attend.

The final performance of Crepuscule will take place in the Playhouse Loft Theatre tomorrow (Sunday May 7) at 14h00. Tickets R80 available via Computicket or at Shoprite Checkers. – Keith Millar