The greatest stage performances of the last 10 years (Part 2)

The greatest stage performances of the last 10 years (Part 2)

By Peter Tromp

This is the conclusion of my list from last week celebrating the best and brightest acting moments on the local stage since 2004.

Susan Danford – ‘Broken Glass’ (2011)
Janice Honeyman’s all-star production of Arthur Miller’s play, centred around the events of Kristallnacht, featured Sir Antony Sher in the lead as Phillip Gellburg, a self-hating Jew clouded in the perception of being accepted in the professional world despite his ethnicity. Susan Danford outshone everyone as Gellburg’s wheelchair-bound wife Sylvia – her character suffering from a form of psychosomatic paralysis in her legs, supposedly due to major stress over what was happening to the Jews in Germany during the time the play is set in. The actress revealed more layers in her detailed portrayal than most actors manage in an entire career, yet all of it appeared effortless, almost instinctual.

David Dennis – ‘The Tragedy of Richard III’ (2011)
Fred Abrahamse’s production of ‘Richard III’ remains my favourite Shakespeare production that I have seen staged in Cape Town, alongside Guy De Lancey’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. The undisputed highlight of the spellbindingly imaginative affair was the supporting performance by David Dennis, almost unrecognisably costumed and masked as a myriad of characters. The actor somehow managed to add depth and shading to all of these characters, but his turn as the Duchess of York was especially memorable. Dennis added an element of stinging rage and bravado to the Duchess – one of the only characters in the play to see through the titular villain’s schemes and stand up to the Black Spider. His astounding performance still rings fresh in the memory and remains one of the most unique things I had seen from an actor locally. Dennis rightly won the Best Supporting Actor Fleur du Cap award in 2012.

Elton Landrew – ‘Boesman & Lena’ (2012)
Great performances can sometimes creep up on one. You might be sitting in the audience not knowing that one is taking place in front of you until the cumulative power of the actor’s choices start to make sense and take hold of one. Elton Landrew’s astonishing turn in James Ncgobo’s ‘Boesman & Lena’ was such a performance. There seemed to be quite a bit of the method in Landrew’s portrayal, so immersed in the character of Boesman did the actor appear, but nothing he did in the play drew attention to himself, or shouted “Look at me!” Instead it was an almost masterfully calibrated and nuanced turn, with Landrew giving one plenty to ponder upon even when he’s wasn’t the one speaking or occupying the spotlight.

Kate Liquorish – My Name Is Rachel Corrie (2013)
‘My Name Is Rachel Corrie’ is one of the most affecting one person shows I have seen on the local stage. Kate Liquorish had a heck of a lot to do in carrying the show all on her own, but something that could have felt overbearing and laced with self-importance in anyone else’s hands felt casual, almost effortless in hers. With immaculate attention to detail she made her Rachel Corrie feel like a real person brimming with life and vitality, instead of just another tragic historical figure.

Jennifer Steyn – The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (2013)
Tennessee Williams created some of the most indelible characters in the world of English drama, and this play is no exception. Fred Abrahamse (that guy again) introduced Capetonians to another grandly flawed Williams heroine last year, one Flora “Sissy” Goforth, played magnificently by Jennifer Steyn. The widowed millionairess spends her last days at her Italian Riviera estate dictating her memoirs when she is suddenly interrupted by the arrival of young poet Christopher Flanders (Marcel Meyer), known to play companion to wealthy women as they near death. Steyn gracefully conveyed a whole universe of emotions as “Sissy” painfully comes to terms with The End approaching.

Honourable mention:
Robyn Scott – ‘London Road’ (2010).