Juke Box Hits

Jukebox Hits is a fun musical currently showing at the beautiful Rockwood Theatre at Sibaya Casino, just a few kilometres north of the Umhlanga CBD. The venue is a supper theatre and guests can either bring or order their own food. Drinks can only be purchased within the theatre.

The term ‘jukebox’ became popular in the 1940s/1950s or thereabouts and referred to a coin-slot machine that played music records. The most popular songs were played over and over. Jukebox Hits takes its cue from this idea and performs songs that were popular in the 1950s (with Elvis Presley), goes back to the days of swing in the 1930s, and then forward through the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Favourites include items from Queen, Louis Armstrong, Michael Jackson, and even some opera from Josh Groban. There are plenty of costume changes, a very accomplished band, and absolutely standout performances by vocalists Janine Cupido, Riyaan Cornelius and Percy Smith.

It’s important to have explained the above as the show does not, of course, contain only jukebox hits – but hits in general. Without some explanation the title could be misleading. The opening night of the show was a little lacking in atmosphere and polish. It felt stilted and performers ranged in their delivery from excellent to not so good. Hopefully these issues will be ironed out, as the concept and the potential for slickness is there. Jukebox Hits runs until 2 September 2018.

Book here: https://bit.ly/2NjNgBr

 

 

Superb acting in Call Me By Your Name

Call Me By Your Name is the beautifully acted story of a love affair that develops between a teenage boy, Elio (Timothée Chalamet), and his father’s student research assistant, Oliver (Armie Hammer). The story is one of emerging identity – hence the title. Set as it is in the 1980s, identifying oneself as gay then would not have been easy, and any ‘victories’ in this regard are swallowed up by societal norms. The setting is in Italy at Elio’s parents’ villa, a home the family occupies away from the USA during the summer. A mix of languages (English, French, Italian and German) and a background of academia in the form of literature and archaeology are layered onto the mellow Italian lifestyle setting. The mixture makes for an attractive exoticness. But it’s not enough to give Call Me By Your Name enough depth. The developing relationship is foregrounded and is dealt with sensitivity, yes. But at two-and-a-half hours in length the light treatment of the social and intellectual landscape leaves Call Me By Your Name lacking in oomph. The excellent acting – especially by Timothée Chalamet – is certainly a redeeming factor.

Call Me By Your Name opens at cinemas in South Africa on 23 February 2018. It carries an age restriction of 16 for DLNS.

Two upcoming titles I like the look of:

Romeo & Juliet – Ballet in cinema – exclusively at Cinema Nouveau theatres from 3 March 2018. Watch a snippet of the magic here: WATCH THE OFFICIAL TRAILER OF BOLSHOI BALLET IN CINEMA – SEASON 2017-18 SEASON HERE

Game Night – an action comedy – in Ster Kinekor theatres from 2 March. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams star in New Line Cinema’s action comedy about a board games night with six highly competitive gamers. The evening becomes mysterious and rather ‘real’…

A Handful of Fun

Weekend weather forecast looking grim? Don’t let that stop you going out. Destination: iZulu Theatre, Sibaya Casino, just a few kilometres north of Umhlanga Rocks. Reason: to see the show A Handful of Keys. Stars: Roelof Colyn and James Smith. Why: Because it’s HUGE fun.

The set on the stage in the fairly grand iZulu theatre is simple: two grand pianos. Combined with two extremely talented musicians and

James Smith & Roelof Coelyn

direction by Ian von Memerty, this is all you need. Roelof and James play all the songs in this two-hour show, bar one piece, sans sheet music. The songs showcase different eras, well-known male and female pianists, South African compositions and a splendid Broadway musical medley. The latter comprises 148 songs and is played in just 12 minutes. I recognised many of the songs and sang (under my breath) and tapped my feet to the beat.

But even if the music and historical artists don’t ring a bell the humour and narration by Colyn and Smith will keep you entertained. They mock everyone they play and sing – from Elton John to Liberace, Barry Manilow to Richard Clayderman, Barbara Streisand (complete with a squint) to Stevie Wonder. They don’t spare themselves either, joking about Colyn’s age, and Smith’s wild hair and huge mouth. Costume changes, physical antics, word changes, piano swapping, completely goofy facial expressions and word play make the show so entertaining I absolutely loved it. It draws in the non-musical and at the same time highlights the superb musical prowess of these showmen.

Go on – treat yourself (a line from the show) and book to see A Handful of Keys. Tickets are available from Computicket, www.computicket.co.za, 0861 915 8000.

Show schedule: Friday 10 November 8pm
Saturday 11 November 3pm and 8pm
Sunday 12 November 3pm
Tuesday 14 to Friday 17 November 8pm
Saturday 18 November 3pm and 8pm
Sunday 19 November 3pm.

Feast on Universally Themed Stories

Are stories universal? Literature studies will tell you they are. They will tell you there are a finite number of plots that most stories fit into. In fact, Douglas McPherson in Writers’  Forum #190, says that estimates of plot types range from 36 to seven, to as few as two. ZP Dala, a South African writer from KwaZulu-Natal, explains further that the universal nature of stories is what connects people ‘across oceans or across a kitchen table in a commonality that fosters a sense of belonging.’ (The Mercury, 12 September 2017, p. 5).

A fellow movie lover and I watched a foreign language film together a few years ago. It was in Serbian or Croatian or Czechoslovakian, I can’t remember which. The story followed the lives of a poor couple who eked out an existence in a run-down, snowbound village. They lived hand to mouth, so much so that when the wife became sick the husband simply sold his car to pay for her medical expenses. Without this intervention the woman may not have survived. Universal themes here included poverty and love – storylines also found in, for example, Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, and many others.

Footloose by The Young Performers. Source: Publicity Matters

What really underscored the universal nature of this film was that the disc sent to the cinema house arrived without subtitles. That’s right, my friend and I watched the whole thing without understanding a single word of the dialogue. I’ve never forgotten that film. Even though my friend unhelpfully told me she couldn’t remember the title because there were no subtitles, the story itself, regardless of language, made such an impression on me. A story of commitment regardless of struggle.

Another story which I have long enjoyed is that of Footloose – the tale of a boy who can’t stop dancing and inspires a town of miserable people to enjoy themselves again. I saw the original in 1984, the remake in 2011, and just last week the stage play by The Young Performers. It was lovely. A story with a similar theme is the 2015 Swedish film Heaven on Earth. In this tale (which I watched with subtitles) against all odds a woman revitalises a town and its church minister and tiny congregation by forming a choir to sing Handel’s Messiah.

Although my limited experience is hardly evidence of the universal nature of stories, this small sample certainly seems to support the notion. A feast of tales indeed.

An explosive evening in London…nearly

by Roxanne Daniels

I had been working in London for three weeks and was finally able to pay my gracious hosts back and keep a bit of pocket money. After a failed and cancelled Berlin trip (which caused me to nearly implode, but let’s move swiftly on from that) I decided to go into the city and buy a last-minute ticket at a reputable ticket office in Leicester Square. As I joined the queue at 4pm, I hurriedly chose Half a Sixpence. The process was a breeze and I had a decently priced seat at the Noel Coward Theatre for the musical. I had three and a half hours to kill, so I wandered around and stumbled into the shop of my dreams – Stanfords. I was absorbed by stories of adventures and world maps in so many different forms that this took nearly an hour of my time.

Continue reading

Experience Theatre in London’s West End

On 22 December 2016 I went with family to see the play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. What I would describe as “3D” extras made the play interesting to watch. These included lighting that danced across the walls, audiovisuals that reflected the main character’s state of mind, a moving model train to simulate a journey and (spoiler alert) a real live puppy that elicited uninhibited “aahs” from the audience. A lovely experience.

But the actual act of going to London’s West End at that unimaginably

The wonders of underground station advertising. Photo: Brenda Daniels

The wonders of underground station advertising. Photo: Brenda Daniels

busy time of year was also part of our atmospheric evening out. The theatre at which the play is being staged (until June 2017) is the Gielgud in Shaftesbury avenue. To get there from home we took a tube (or three) and stepped up onto the heaving pavement of Charing Cross Road. Being London’s bookshop street Charing Cross’s first offering for us was Foyles bookshop. We squeezed into the store and wormed up and down six storeys, just managing to get a coffee before staggering out again. I can’t understand why some writers support the notion that writing in coffee shops is romantic and inspirational. I found it completely distracting.

A gingerbread city we stopped to look at in Knightsbridge. Photo: Brenda Daniels

A gingerbread city we stopped to look at in Knightsbridge. Photo: Brenda Daniels

Next up on our journey was dinner – McDonald’s (limited budget you see) which is apparently on the site of the original bookstore of 84 Charing Cross Road. After our feast we crossed the road and passed the Palace Theatre at which Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is being performed. Theatregoers enjoying a feast of their own had come out onto into the open for a breather; the play is in two parts and, together with two intermissions, runs for a whopping five hours and 55 minutes. I read in The Telegraph that marathon theatre sessions like these might catch on as a new trend. Phew.

We turned off Charing Cross Road and jostled our way to the Gielgud

Christmas lights at Knightsbridge in London, December 2016. Photo: Brenda Daniels

Christmas lights at Knightsbridge in London, December 2016. Photo: Brenda Daniels

passing Christmas lights and “Mulled Wine” signs. Our booking was for the cheapest seats in the house (budget, remember) which had warnings like “obstructed” view and on the computer seating plan looked like we would need opera glasses just to see the stage. No fear of that. The Gielgud is quite small and spacious and the “obstruction” was merely a roof overhang which really didn’t spoil our view at all.

Back out into the cold air after the show we fought our way back to the tube station, past runners in Father Christmas gear, buskers in the underground and pedestrians everywhere sporting Christmas jumpers. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was for us an entertaining theatre event indeed.

The Snow Goose Shows Human Nature

I attended the 2016 Hilton Arts Festival in the KZN midlands on a very rainy and cold Sunday, the 18th of September. I felt sorry for the brave stall holders sitting under their flimsy shelters in the miserable weather. Conditions definitely detracted from our enjoyment of the day and no doubt from the crafters’ takings. Indoor art galleries and a bustling food tent with free live music were the more cheery choices for how to spend free time.

While I wasn’t shivering in a tent, I watched three foreign-based plays: The Snow Goose, Tarty Flowers and Blonde Poison. It was a pity I couldn’t enjoy something snow-goose-free-to-usemusical; I had misunderstood the booking system by not reserving tickets even for “free” shows so missed out on Two Guitars, featuring James Grace and Jonathan Crossley. I’ll remember for next time.

The best show of the day was the beautifully scripted, extremely well-acted The Snow Goose. The story is set in England during World War II. It makes a sensitive comment on society’s cruel, and often stupid, vilification of those who are different, and on the stranger who longs to be accepted and useful. Whilst the actors in Tarty Flowers coped well with an unplanned electricity failure during their performance, the story, which seemed to move backwards, lacked a certain crispness of delivery. This meant that some of the cleverness of the show’s inspiration, Fawlty Towers, was lost. Fiona Ramsay gave a 60-minute solo performance in the aptly named Blonde Poison. This play featured a German Jewish woman relating to a journalist the story of how she had ratted on her fellow Jews in Nazi Germany, escaping arrest herself through bribery and her Aryan looks. The play was surprising on so many levels for me: from the energy required for such a lengthy solo performance, to the tale of treachery amongst Jews themselves, to realising what the name “Blonde Poison” really referred to. Ramsay was visibly moved at the end of this demanding performance and deserved her standing ovation.

National Arts Festival: A British Perspective

Day five of the national arts festival turned out to be a bumper British one for Feast of Tales. First up was Kettling of the Voices. This documentary showed footage from the ‘other side’ of the student protests in 2010 against university fee increases, as well as the 1990 protests against the poll tax. ‘Kettling’ was the police response to the crowds – a technique that involves forcing large groups of people into a confined space and keeping them there for hours. Police actions aside, we found it fascinating to see that student protests against fees are not unique to South Africa. Next up was the brilliant Oxford Imps. This improvisation comedy troupe from Oxford university were outstanding in their skits that fed directly off the audience. Highly recommended. Our last show for the day was the very thought-provoking Those You Pass in the Street, an Irish piece about dealing with past conflicts in Ireland. Kabosh Theatre Company, responsible for this play, uses drama to help heal hurts from political conflicts – such a purposeful way of using the medium. Their play was intensely applicable to South Africa.

 

National Arts Festival: A Music Perspective

Music and imagination formed the most enjoyable part of day four in Grahamstown for A Feast of Tales. Our first encounter was Nefilibata which was a dance piece set to light, uplifting sounds. The ‘dancers’ were in fact musical theatre students who gave a delightful presentation of a love story using contemporary dance, mime, and props designed to look like clouds and birds. The Festival Gala Concert was our second. Conducted by the personable Richard Cock and played by the Eastern Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, the well-attended performance delivered a variety of pieces that were explained by the conductor. So, we heard a piece to which the composer had, on its debut, invited women with the name (and variants of) ‘Anne’; another set composed by an Eastern Cape man in the midst of pain and sorrow; a concerto about a ‘gold and silver’ ball; chariots of fire; a piece called Mambozart; and beautiful compositions performed by the Standard Bank young performer of the year. All were designed to transport us listeners to a place of beauty and grandeur. Death of a Donut, while not exactly doing the latter, was nevertheless a fun murder mystery show – accompanied by suitably mysterious music – in which the audience was involved in the implication and solving of the murder. A number of school boys attending the performance were ecstatic when one of their teachers ‘died’ and the other ‘implicated’ in a murder. Women in Theatre, part of a Thinkfest, was definitely not musical, nor did it do much to stir the imagination. A little disappointed with its depth we left feeling that much more could have been made of the topic.

National Arts Festival: Day Three

Thinkfest was first up on A Feast of Tales’s agenda on day three of the NatArtsFest with a discussion on Gender Politics. The hour’s dialogue indicated that this rhetoric-laden topic still favours too much – well – dialogue and too little practical application. An over-aggressive approach also emerged as a problem. Number two on our schedule was the dialogue-heavy House of Truth in which actor, Sello Maake kaNcube, told the story of writer Can Themba and his struggles during apartheid to be recognised as a teacher. The drama had a good script but was depressing and failed to hold the audience’s attention for its overly long 90-minute duration. Hannah Arendt was another ‘struggle’ piece, though this time in the form of a movie. Like the Sophie Scholl film we saw on day two, Hannah Arendt presented a view of Nazi Germany somewhat different to what we were used to. In this story German-Jewish philosopher and author, Hannah Arendt, wrestled with the problem of evil, putting forward the – scandalous – ideas that German perpetrators of crimes in World War II may simply have failed to think and that Jewish victims may have been complicit in their own victimisation. Our day ended with the brilliantly executed The Echo of a Noise by Pieter Dirk-Uys, in which this renowned performer gave an autobiographical account of his life, revolving mostly around his combative relationship with his ‘Pa’. Rich, funny, tender and well-rounded, Uys’s performance was very deserving of its standing ovation.