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Saturday, August 12, 2017


(Paul Slabolepszy. Pic by Suzy Bernstein)

Brilliant script, direction, performances, design and technical – if you appreciate excellent drama then whatever you do, don’t miss it. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Suddenly The Storm forms part of the Playhouse Company’s 2017 Women’s Arts Festival. The production walked off with three Naledi Theatre Awards this year – and justifiably so.

Designed by Durban’s Greg King, the set is a jumble of a work room. There’s a desk and chair, an old and torn car seat serving as a divan, notice boards, broken blinds and shelves filled with a chaotic array of files, papers, and an equally chaotic adjacent workshop. It’s all covered with a corrugated iron roof that obviously leaks. The props list and their positioning must run to a considerable number of pages! Wesley Frances’ lighting design is equally effective and the intimate nature of the Loft makes you part of the whole environment.

Dwayne Combrinck (Paul Slabolepszy) enters with blood all over his hands and carrying a blood-stained baseball bat. He gets on the phone to announce to his contact “Mission accomplished”.

This is Dwayne’s life. An ex-policeman from the apartheid era now debt collector resorting to violent ends to achieve results, he is scruffy, volatile, and quick to anger. He also makes gates – not very successfully. He is in serious debt having gone into partnership with someone who took him for a ride and left him.

Enter Shannell (Charmaine Weir-Smith), his blonde tarty common-law wife. Not the brightest light on the planet, she talks non-stop and dresses in sexy outfits, Things aren’t good between them. She hates where they live in this remote area of the East Rand and the poverty that they have to endure. She has conversations on her cellphone supposedly with her girlfriend … but is this really the truth?

Dwayne is battling with the past and the memories and nightmares associated with it. He laments the death of Jonas, his lifelong black friend and work colleague. He has promised Jonas’s memory that he will create a tombstone for him. The discovery of a rhino horn in Jonas’s locker will now provide the funds for this.

However, Shannell thinks otherwise, seeing this as a way out of poverty but Dwayne refuses to sell it and so the arguments develop. Fights, bitterness, counter-accusations and fury ensue. They both have secrets to hide which fuels the anger further. Sparks fly and it’s not just from the welding machine!

An elegantly-dressed and well-spoken lady arrives unexpectedly. She doesn’t give much  information other than that her name is Namhla Gumede (Renate Stuurman) and she is well-connected, being married to a tenderpreneur. She lived in exile in England since her birth for many years and she’s a writer. It’s assumed that she’s come to ask for Dwayne’s services. She wants him to find the person who owes her so much.

As the play progresses, Namhla shows her true colours with anger and bitterness representing her difficulty in adjusting to life in South Africa.

Thunder punctuates the early part of the play – heralding the violent storm that underscores the final revelation.

As is to be expected from Slabolepszy, the script contains much humour and he gives an outstanding and superlative performance with a solid outpouring of non-stop energy from his opening moments to the final curtain.

Charmaine Weir-Smith is highly memorable as the brash Shannell and has some delightful moments such as proudly presenting a set of labelled kitchen containers that are “dyslexic proof” and demonstrating her mother’s training as an air hostess.

Renate Schuurman exudes the right amount of detachment when we first meet her but shows her dramatic power as the play progresses and we see her passion to find the person who owes her so much.

To reveal the ending would be to spoil it for future audiences. It may start seeming predictable but the process of getting there and the final moments are handled superbly thanks to Slabolepszy’s brilliant script and Bobby Heaney’s excellent direction.

Suddenly the Storm has one more performance tonight (August 12) at 19h30 in the Playhouse Drama. Tickets R80 booked through Computicket or Shoprite Checkers. There is an age restriction of 18 (strong language).

Brilliant script, direction, performances, design and technical – if you appreciate excellent drama then whatever you do, don’t miss it. – Caroline Smart