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Monday, September 18, 2017


Performance that was beautifully balanced, sensitive and emotional. (Review by Keith Millar)

The Blue Period of Milton van der Spuy was written by Greig Coetzee 20 years ago, in 1997, and first performed, by him, at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown that year.

This quirky, witty and rather tragic one man production was brought back to life at the Hilton Arts Festival this year by talented local actor Francis Mennigke, under the direction of Peter Mitchell of the UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus.

Although Coetzee wrote this play 20 years ago, it is a rather timeless piece which works as well now as it did then.

Milton Leonardo van der Spuy is a somewhat limited young man, both intellectually and emotionally. His mother has however instilled in him a great love for poetry and painting. She herself had ambitions of following a creative career until pregnancy and marriage put paid to that. So, she named her first-born after a poet and an artist and, despite his intellectual limitations, has convinced him that he would become a famous writer or painter.

However, Milton is constantly struggling to find the inspiration to start his first painting. He tries hard but instead of getting anything onto the canvas he gets blue paint smeared all over his hands and face. He is also having difficulty finding a word to rhyme with orange so he can complete his first poem.

Milton also has other, bigger problems. His beloved sister, Mona Lisa van der Spuy, has passed away in tragic circumstances and, in his limited way, he is struggling to come to terms with her death and the consequences.

Francis Mennigke is not a very well-known actor, but after his dazzling performance as Milton, one can’t but believe that it won’t be long before he becomes a regular name on our stages. His performance was beautifully balanced, sensitive and emotional. He captured the essence of Milton perfectly. Despite having to deliver his lines as an intellectually-challenged person it was never overdone and he managed to retain the integrity of the character throughout.

His pace and use of silences and hesitations was particularly impressive and were a large part in developing the Milton character.

The Drama Centre at Hilton College was packed to capacity for this production, including a school group who had to sit on the stairs.

Mennigke received a well-deserved standing ovation for his performance. Maybe there is a production company in Durban who is prepared to take the chance and bring this outstanding production to our city? – Keith Millar