Long awaited collaboration results in pure alchemy on the stage

Long awaited collaboration results in pure alchemy on the stage

SHOW: TOBACCO, AND THE HARMFUL EFFECTS THEREOF
CAST: ANDREW BUCKLAND, TONI MORKEL
DIRECTOR: SYLVAINE STRIKE
VENUE: BARNEY SIMON THEATRE AT THE MARKET COMPLEX UNTIL MARCH 6
REVIEWER: PETER FELDMAN

Tobacco really has nothing to do with this play. It’s about humanity and the manipulative influence one person has over another. It’s about finding your place on earth, creeping out of your cocoon and being heard.
The ever masterful Andrew Buckland is the powerful force that drives this black comedy, utilising his many skills, including his physical prowess, to carve out the needy little character named Ivan.

His dominating wife (Toni Morkel) spends most of her time illuminated in the background silently miming her reactions to him, whether she is ranting, ordering or sneering. Only at the end does she come downstage and utters her few lines. Is there finally a connection between the two, perhaps some glimmer of hope for the future?

Adapted and written by William Harding from various iconic sources (Becket to Chekov), and devised further in collaboration with director Sylvaine Strike, the play holds one’s attention throughout.
Ivan’s wife, with whom he’s had 13 sons and seven daughters, has instructed him to give a lecture on tobacco and its harmful effects in order to instil within him some sense of confidence.

He tentatively approaches the podium, not quite sure what he is going to say to the assembled audience, but as his lecture progresses Ivan manages to emerge from his shell and take command. It’s uplifting to watch the character’s inner soul slowly unfurl and from this seemingly invisible nonentity appears a man of reckoning. His story deals with anxiety, fear, his memories, his dreary existence and what he would like to tell his wife, but does not have the courage to do.

The props are kept to a minimum and all that Buckland has to work with is a hollowed out trunk, which serves as a podium, a boat, a desk, a bridge and more. Chen Nakar’s design adds immeasurably to the sense of starkness and desolation that pervades the piece, while the cinematic lighting helps to enhance the dark humour and moodiness of the two-hander, and is designed by Strike, assisted by Ali Madiga.

It’s interesting to note from the media release that this production sees Strike and Buckland teaming up for their first ever long awaited collaboration. Both Buckland (1986) and Strike (2006) are Standard Bank Young Artist Award winners, separated by a 20 year gap, and they have wanted to work together for over a decade. This long overdue meeting of creative souls has now resulted in pure alchemy.

* Book at Computicket.