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Thursday, July 13, 2017


(Roberto Pombo & Joni Barnard)

Not a lovable production but it certainly is a compelling, imaginative and insightful observation of the underbelly of Casino life. (Review by Keith Millar)

A young brother and sister are abandoned for hours in the Sun Star Casino games arcade by their mother who has a gambling addiction. This happens every weekend and sometimes during the week as well.

The arcade is a manic, hyped-up environment. Loud music, bright lights, brash colours and constant high volume electronic noise.

The siblings are given a pile of money by their mother to keep themselves occupied and out of her way. They go on a chaotic, frenzied pursuit of winning, collecting tokens, consuming sweets and chips and fizzy drinks and over excitement, until they have to beg their mom for even more money.

I found this production, seen at the Hanger Theatre at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, quite exhausting. Forty minutes of non-stop loud noise and action. There are superb performances by the cast of two, Roberto Pombo and Joni Barnard. They expend enough energy to light up a small Eastern Cape Dorp. Much of the action is highly physical and takes place as a frenetic mime.

The irrepressible Pombo has a burgeoning reputation as a sort of dark and otherworldly clown, while Barnard matched him action for action in their high-octane antics.

The production was created and written by them along with Toni Morkel who was also responsible for direction.

This team was also responsible for the award-winning Father, Father, Father which won a Silver Ovation Award in 2015 and paved the way for their invitation to the Festival Arena programme this year.

There are many clever elements in the production. For example, the use of a big white handbag to depict the mother and the wolf masks the siblings don to indicate their final descent into total disorder and mayhem.

There is also a calm, warm and comforting voice making announcements in the background, extolling the virtues of the Casino, while the exact opposite is in fact taking place. It is quite chilling.

KidCasino is not a lovable production but it certainly is a compelling, imaginative and insightful observation of the underbelly of Casino life and the social problem of gambling addiction.

This surreal and satirical two-hander is well worth seeing but, despite the many laughs and captivating performances you may leave feeling a little more disturbed than entertained. – Keith Millar