SHOW: Civil Parting
Director: Zanne Solomon
CAST: Pieter Bosch Botha and Shaun Acker
VENUE: Returns to The Alexander Bar by popular demand from November 5 to 16
REVIEW: Peter Tromp
One has to admire Nicholas Spagnoletti’s determination to entertain. ‘Civil Parting’, like his award winning ‘London Road’ and the less well received, but still wholly absorbing ‘Special Thanks to Guests from Afar’, is filled with sparkling dialogue that has seemingly been designed to go straight to one’s pleasure centre. These lines don’t just exist for their own sake, however; or to show off how clever its scribe is, but to give us more insight into two fascinating, and it in their own ways, loveable characters.
The Alexander Bar might strike certain folks as a bit too hip for their tastes, but ‘Civil Parting’ is pure populist delight crammed into an hour or so. Funny, biting and sardonic it may be, but it takes the pain of its bickering ex-lovers seriously and rewards the audience for their emotional investment in the characters with some truly poignant moments, but also some hysterically funny ones.
Their yin and yang differences make you understand why lovers Glenn (Shaun Acker) and Jean-Pierre (Pieter Bosch Botha) worked as a couple, but it also makes perfect sense why their differing qualities ultimately led to the dissolution of their relationship. At the beginning of the play, we find the estranged pair in the waiting room of the lawyer Glenn has earmarked to handle their divorce procedure.
At first Glenn and Jean-Pierre might come across as archetypically gay characters, but their layers are patiently revealed through the course of ‘Civil Parting’ until they both emerge as fully formed, yet highly flawed, but still sympathetic characters.
They are both consummately realised by Botha and Acker, but there is no question that the latter’s memorable turn as the more emotive Glenn will be an audience favourite.
With the long lost skill of a 1940s screwball writer, Spagnoletti has seemingly hit upon some kind of alchemical theatrical formula, but his success isn’t that difficult to fathom. He is a wiz when it comes to a memorable line that is for sure, but it is his ability to get his audiences invested in his characters that truly sets him apart from his contemporaries.