SHOW: The Kingmakers
DIRECTOR: Louis Viljoen
CAST: Brendon Daniels, Rebecca Makin-Taylor and Pierre Malherbe
VENUE: The Alexander Upstairs Theatre until September 13
REVIEW: Peter Tromp
Is there such a thing as profound profanity? If there is, then Louis Viljoen is its undisputed local master purveyor. For its entire duration, ‘The Kingmakers’ contains just about every expletive in the English language, used with relish by at least two thirds of its cast. It will almost certainly strike some theatregoers as excessive, but I’d wager that even those particularly sensitive to F-bombs and C-bombs, and D-bombs, and almost gleeful combinations of the aforementioned, will suffer their discomfort, because of the quality on display, in almost all departments. ‘The Kingmakers’ is surely the most tautly plotted, and rivetingly executed political play since Ian Bruce’s ‘Groundswell’, the 2005 Fleur du Cap winner for Best Indigenous Script.
One of the reasons I wasn’t so enamoured with Viljoen’s universally acclaimed ‘Champ’ – the 2012 Fleur du Cap winner for Best New Script – was because it felt like a theatre industry inside joke amongst buddies and seemed primarily concerned with titillating and shocking audiences. In my 2013 review I bemoaned the “cursing for cursing’s sake”, but that is most certainly not something you can level at ‘The Kingmakers’. Almost every little detail of this play feels purposeful; even the long, immaculately inventive and profanity-laced monologues that would surely make Quentin himself envious.
Like his almost equally excellent ‘The Frontiersmen’ from last year, ‘The Kingmakers’ introduces one to a cast of some of the most morally decrepit opportunists to ever grace a stage, local or international. Operating on the fringes of the South African political landscape, these vultures are trying to affect change in the country, mostly for selfish gain, but also just for the heck of it, it would seem; to make those serenely comfortable at the top sweat just a little bit. The play starts out with the core duo of Daniel (Brendon Daniels, operating somewhat out of his comfort zone) and Arlow (Pierre Malherbe, who has never been better) having flamed out spectacularly after hitching their wagon to a lame candidate. After roping in stone cold spin doctor Amy (Rebecca Makin-Taylor, who is genuinely chilling at times), the three embark on a treacherous journey of political manoeuvring, with some very unexpected results on the way.
Viljoen – or Uncle Loo, as he is known in blogging circles – hasn’t coined himself “a certified dealer of bile” for nothing (this writer too has suffered his wrath at one point), and the acid reflux you are likely to endure while watching this play will feel very real. Even though declaredly a work of fiction, so much of ‘The Kingmakers’ is redolent of the kinds of cynical political scandals we have become all too used to in the post-rainbow nation era that it the work will cloud your entire week after having seen it.
What ultimately makes the play so transcendent is that it isn’t necessarily about a particular moment in South African politics; rather it’s about the romance of corruption and the kinds of environments that aid and abet people faltering.
The play’s monsters are fascinating exactly because there is almost always a kernel of sense to what they’re saying when they’re defending their machinations, which makes their actions seem somewhat logical.
The almost dizzyingly heightened verbiage elevates proceedings to an almost cosmic level – as if the very soul of humanity is spiralling out of whack right in front of our eyes. Add some truly top notch performances and you’ve got one thrillingly disquieting production.
* Book online at www.alexanderbar.co.za.
For telephone bookings and more information, call 021 300 1652.
The Alexander Bar & Café is situated on 76 Strand Street (Corner Loop), Cape Town CBD.