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Saturday, September 9, 2017


(Jill Sysum & Lerato Xaba)

Fine performance from Lerato Xaba in James Jooste’s latest drama.  (Review by Caroline Smart)

Durban director, producer and playwright James Jooste (21) has presented two productions at DHS’s Seabrooke’s Theatre and has now created his latest show titled Saving Grace. Identified as a comedy-drama, it is running at Seabrooke’s until September 17.

In this sorrowful period of a dearth of good dramatic shows in Durban, all kudos to Jooste and his Blank Canvas Productions for firmly believing that there is a future for drama in this city.

Saving Grace is about a woman who takes on the care and guardianship of Zoe, the granddaughter of her best friend Harriet who has recently died. Zoe’s mother, Iris, was a drug addict and she has been led to believe that Iris died of an overdose. However, fate decides Zoe needs to know the truth.

Into the equation comes a charming young man – just as lonely as Zoe – with whom she forms a relationship. However, their path together will face a serious challenge.

The script is amusing as well as poignant as the various relationships develop in their often tempestuous ways. Initially, Zoe and Grace do not hit it off well – Zoe is cheeky, rude and far too forthright for Grace’s liking. However, their joint love for Harriet pulls them together.

In the role of Grace is Jill Sysum who handles her part with sincerity but lacks confidence and often loses the comedy timing required to give the character the necessary depth.

The incredibly tall Daniel Levi is appealing as a budding guitarist who has opted to run away from his very wealthy family. Levi handles his role with ease and makes the most of the comedy.

Lungile Mkhize gives the role of Iris a sense of spirit and zest but needs more credibility as an unhinged woman desperately trying to regain her relationship with her daughter.

The play features a very fine performance from Lerato Xaba as Zoe. She gives consistency and a feisty honesty to her role.

Saving Grace has a number of issues but these could be due to technical limitations at Seabrooke’s.

I think the script could do with some restructuring to do away with the many scene changes. Perhaps the use of specific lighted areas rather than a full set, although they do make use of the front area of the stage at audience level.

Quick changes (which can be seen in shadow on the backcloth) mean that we often see recognisable outfits underneath the new ones. The constant scene changes make for an uneven process and time lapses are often difficult to identify as the props on the table- whisky bottle, half-full glasses etc – are not removed. There was also a lot of distracting noise from backstage.

The nearness of the door knocks and lack of door opening/closing sounds makes many entrances and exits illogical. Might be an idea to use a doorbell or a camera-controlled entrance on stage so visitors can be buzzed in.

I am certain that many of the issues that hampered the show last night will get ironed out quickly if they haven’t been done so already.

Blank Canvas Productions is a pro-active young group and deserves every theatre-goer’s support.

Saving Grace runs at Seabrooke’s Theatre at Durban High School with performances until September 17 with shows from Tuesday to Saturdays at 19h30 and Sundays at 15h00. The show is approximately 90 minutes excluding interval.  Tickets R100 (R80 pensioners and students). Book at WebTickets. For block bookings of 10 or more seats email - Caroline Smart