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Wednesday, July 4, 2018


(Ryan Napier)

Compelling performance from Ryan Napier in Sam Pennington’s Flotsam at the National Arts Festival. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Ryan Napier gives a compelling performance in 2016 Standard Bank Ovation Award winner Sam Pennington’s Flotsam. The production deals with a man who is battling with himself and eventually, like flotsam, seems to “fall overboard” and sink into depths of confusion.

We see him partying like made, oversleeping, rushing to work on his motorbike, battling with a stressful job, and getting locked out of his home because his keys seem to have disappeared. A sudden downpour becomes a deluge in his mind and he sinks underwater to be washed up and stranded on a deserted shore.

Before he goes awol, as it were, he comes across a beggar in the street (a puppet sensitively operated by Pennington) but doesn’t give him anything. The beggar comes back to haunt him, disturbing him even further.

What is actually reality and what is happening in the man’s mind is often difficult to tell but what’s more important is the quality of Napier’s acting.

The production is designed by Natasha Warren Stone – a very simple set with three hanging panels of paper, one becoming a clever representation of tumbling surf. Another carries shadow play from visual technicians Frank Harris and James Francis. These images give a clue to some of the issues that trouble our hero. Well-chosen background music and sound is by Richard Baker. – Caroline Smart