Unconventional love story is a real winner

Unconventional love story is a real winner

DIRECTOR: Christopher Weare
CAST: Julie Hartley and Paul Du Toit
VENUE: Kalk Bay Theatre until June 22
REVIEW: Peter Tromp

‘Same Next Year’ is the kind of production that really works some stealthy voodoo on one. Christopher Weare’s directorial hand here is rather unassuming. The production appears thoroughly content to not raise the pulse for long stretches of its duration. It just kind of genially goes about its way, but as the inevitable end approaches, it starts to dawn upon you that you’re not quite ready to say farewell to the characters you got to know in the roughly hour and a half.

One is then deposited back into the cold night air with only memories to cling to, and it feels almost cruel in a way, because the journey of the interesting and charming characters continues in the world of the play, but what memories one is left with.
The show tells the story of a woman and a man, both married to other spouses, who meet by chance at a country inn, have an affair, fall in love and then agree to meet once a year at the same time at the same place.

We’ve become used to this kind of story usually possessing an element of salaciousness, but the two lovers’ relationship is presented as anything but titillating, or shocking. Right from the start they share a very comfortable rapport, and when their relationship inevitably shifts beyond the purely physical and chemical, each becomes a sort of emotional crutch for the other outside their day-to-day lives. It becomes easy to imagine after a while that if these two hadn’t met, their marriages would not have lasted.

But due to author Bernard Slade’s palpable unease with the rigidness of societal institutions and the way they seemingly suck the vitality out of their subjects, it’s also hardly a stretch to imagine that if these likeable philanderers were indeed a married couple, their own matrimonial union would have disintegrated before long. It’s a very unusual love story, but one underpinned by a sort of necessity and a much more affecting one than the usual dross we see in the mainstream sphere because of its moral complexity and emotional richness.

A lot of the success of the production hinges on the actors and their ability to get the audience on board this unconventional vehicle. Julie Hartley and Paul Du Toit are of course undeniably attractive people and enormously winning actors and right from the off they have the audience metaphorically eating out the palms of their hands, but neither actor cruises on their inherent likeability. Instead they infer on the audience the real sense that we have spent time with living, breathing, multi-faceted individuals.

* For bookings and for more information, visit  www.kbt.co.za.