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Sunday, October 25, 2020


(Liesl Coppin, Cara Roberts & Brian Hiles. Pic by Val Adamson)

A highly impressive performance from Cara Roberts in a delightfully hilarious and excellent production. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Durban’s much-loved and honoured KickstArt Theatre Productions has made it out of lockdown with a great show which is running at Seabrooke’s Theatre at DHS. KickstArt is run by the inimitable duo, Steven Stead and Greg King, who, between them, create top-class productions in Durban – and around the country – with their pantomimes being the highlight of the Durban festive seasons.

Stead is currently in Cape Town directing the opera, Cosi fan Tutte, leaving King with time on his hands to focus on the frustrations of the theatre world and, as he says: “itching to do something creative to keep from going crazy.” A series of interesting coincidences led him to chat with fellow actors Bryan Hiles and Cara Roberts to do a show at Rhumbelow. A few days later, Michael Broderick invited them to visit the newly-renovated Seabrooke’s Theatre (in which he had been installing a brand new lighting and technical rig). There they bumped into actress Liesl Coppin, who is the new Seabrooke’s theatre manager. Together they discussed possible collaborations.

Then King remembered Sylvia, a play that has been on his wish list for a long time. It suited these three actors but needed a further member and fellow actor Peter Court stepped in. Eventually, King handed over the job as co-director to Court and took on the performer’s hat, something he hasn’t done for about 15 years!

(Right: Greg King & Bryan Hiles. Pic by Val Adamson)

The story is very simple but requires much dramatic versatility, especially from Roberts in the role of Sylvia.

Greg is tired of his office life which he feels is meaningless so he takes off for a walk in the park. Here he meets Sylvia, who seems lost and helpless. She touches something in his heart and he comes to the rescue and takes her home. She immediately delights in her new surroundings and exuberantly thanks him … constantly!

His wife, Kate, arrives home to see this display of affection and is highly unimpressed. Because Sylvia is a dog – and she’s not mad about dogs. Especially when they jump all over the furniture and lick your face. However, Greg is totally smitten and so begins a battle which author A R Gurney has created with much humour as well as pathos and a whole heap of energy!

(Left: Liesl Coppin & Greg King. Pic by Val Adamson)

The surprise of the evening was to see King back on stage – and not just in one role but three! He plays the over-the-top Phyllis, the red-haired wife of Greg’s boss; Tom, a casual dude that Greg meets in the park and who is full of advice re male problems, and Leslie, a cross-dressing marriage counsellor.

Greg is played by Hiles with Coppin as his long-suffering wife. They interact well together with both handling the emotions required with much credibility.

(Right: Cara Roberts as Sylvia. Pic by Val Adamson)

However, is it Roberts who totally steals the show as the dog who can talk. Not just talk but talk a lot!! Her moods change from helpless and pleading to obstinate and furious as well as the frailty she suffers after being spayed. She delights as the sex-driven Sylvia on heat. I was also in awe at the way she leaps across the couch with ease. A highly impressive performance.

The attractive set of a cosy city flat is designed by King with lighting design by Broderick. Costume design and co-ordination is by Court with sound compilation by Jason Bird.

 All in all, it's a delightfully hilarious and excellent production.

Sylvia is presented by KickstArt Theatre by arrangement with DALRO (Pty) Ltd. The show runs until November 8 on Fridays at 19h00, Saturdays at 14h30 and 19h00 as well as Sundays at 11h00 and 15h00. There will be one extra performance on Thursday (October 29) at 19h00. Tickets R150 throughout. Seating unreserved through Computicket – seats allocated at the door in line with COVID protocols. Patrons are requested to arrive timeously.

Seabrooke's Theatre is situated at Durban High School (DHS), St Thomas Road, Musgrave. – Caroline Smart