Kerfoot defies his years with mature, haunting ‘Mastor Harold’

Kerfoot defies his years with mature, haunting ‘Mastor Harold’

SHOW: Master Harold and the Boys
DIRECTOR: Kim Kerfoot
CAST: Tshamano Sebe, Themba Mchunu and Alex Middlebrook
Venue: The Fugard Studio until Saturday March 30 at 8.15pm nightly

I can’t imagine a more challenging situation for a young director to be in for his sophomore professional production: helming a densely layered Athol Fugard play; in the theatre proudly bearing the author’s name; with a cast consisting of two professional and one non-professional actor, who happens to still be in high school.
Yet, with ‘Master Harold and the Boys’, Kim Kerfoot somehow pulls off the immaculate by making it all seem (almost) seamless.

Kerfoot must have the blood of a Finnish race car driver running through his veins, because I’m pretty sure the pressure might have flustered any other 20-something. A tonally disjointed, thematically bungled end product might even have been forgivable, but it has now become evident that this young guy is pretty close to the real deal. I’m usually quite loath to make sweeping declarations about the messianic arrival of this or that precocious new talent, but Kerfoot does feel different to many of the new directors that have made their collective bows over the last numbers of years.

The tension that he manages to establish right from the outset of ‘Master Harold’ and maintains throughout, even when things are relatively chipper on the surface; the almost eerie confidence he displays in making the stage feel like a precious netherworld rife with the potential of dreams; the delicacy with which he telegraphs the complex ways in which race factored into people’s behaviours and mindsets circa 1950s South Africa – these are all signs of a sure hand and a tangibly humanistic sensibility at work.
Perhaps my favourite feat of Kerfoot’s is the performances he gets from his cast. They are all great, and special mention must go to Alex Middlebrook, who does a remarkable job as damaged teen Hally, especially considering he doesn’t appear flustered by the professional company he is keeping. But my favourite amongst the cast is unquestionably Tshamano Sebe.

The last time I saw Tshamano Sebe on a stage in Cape Town was nearly a decade ago in ‘Jesus Hopped The ‘A’ Train’ at the Baxter, and it didn’t take me long to realise how much I have missed his one of a kind presence.
He delivered a performance of such magnetism in that Lara Bye directed production that it still stands as one of the most memorable in my time as a critic. What he produces in ‘Master Harold’ is no less remarkable.
The range he exhibits as Willie, the tea room server subservient to a white teenager, is breathtaking at times.

The way in which Sebe so sensitively telegraphs the shifting moods of his character, without undercutting his own natural charisma, has to be seen to be believed.
Kim Kerfoot won the Rosalie Van Der Gucht prize for most promising new director at this year’s Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards for his work last year in another Fugard play, ‘Statements After an Arrest Under The immorality Act’. Based on the evidence of his latest play, he might just find himself in the Best Director category come next year.

* Book for the final couple of performances at Computicket.