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Sunday, May 28, 2017

/'fri:dəm/ - FREEDOM

 (Jayshree Parasuramen, Rita Hlaluka & Yateen Dayaram)

In all respects this production was well conceived, professionally put together and very nicely performed. (Review by Keith Millar)

Durban’s Playhouse was certainly a vibrant and festive place to be last Friday night as the Africa Alive! Festival, in commemoration of Africa Month, got into full swing. Dozens of fashionable and enthusiastic people joined in celebrating the fusion of music, fashion, dance, arts and crafts and food, creating an exciting and festive atmosphere.

Also part of the festivities were the final productions of the Playhouse Company’s New Stages season. This initiative is about staging authentic South African works which are both entertaining and creative, but also leave audiences with food for thought.

In the rather uncomfortable Loft Theatre, the Playhouse Actors Studio staged a production which they have devised, entitled /'fri:dəm/ , which is apparently pronounced as Freedom. The production which takes a retrospective look at what our freedom means to us today certainly meets these criteria of the New Stages Season.

The Playhouse Actors Studio is a resident company aimed primarily at recent graduates who hold a tertiary qualification in drama. During the year, they spend with the company they attend workshops and master classes, conducted by industry professionals, aimed at enhancing their practical skills and further developing their talent in a professional theatre environment.

Using /'fri:dəm/ as a gauge, it must be said that the Playhouse Actors Studio seem to be achieving their aims. In all respects this production was well conceived, professionally put together and very nicely performed.

The production uses classical South African theatre works, images and sounds as it seeks to find the meaning of what we have achieved as a country; what challenges we have faced and how we deal with them. It asks questions about whether we have, in fact, achieved freedom, and is freedom ever achievable or is it just fallacy?

In creating this piece the performers from the Playhouse Actor’s Studio enjoyed the curatorship and research of Matjamela Motloung and the directing mentorship of theatre stalwart Ralph Lawson. Both gentlemen deserve credit for the roles they played in turning out an unusual, interesting and thought-provoking piece of theatre.

The ensemble of seven actors who told the story all put in impressive performances, with several of them playing more than one role. None more so than Rita Hlaluka who played an aging prostitute, a slimy male dictator and a mother, all with some distinction.

Others in the cast were Wanda Zuma, Phumelele Majola, Jayshree Parasuramen, Yateen Dayaram, Nhlakanipho Gamede and Kagiso Tsimakwane.

The set for the production was impressive with plenty of corrugated iron and bare brickwork giving a distinct township feel while slide projections onto a lopsided screen did much to add to the drama of the piece. None more so than in the dramatic Soweto school riots scenes.

All in all, this was an enjoyable production which one hopes will be worked on and further developed and then once again be used to showcase the talents of our young performers. – Keith Millar