SHOW: DISTRICT 6 KANALA
DIRECTOR: David Kramer
CAST: Loukmaan Adams, Bianca Le Grange, Carlo Daniels, Edith Plaatjies, Sne Dladla, Andrea Frankson, Natasha Hess,
VENUE: The Fugard Theatre until May 22
REVIEWER: Peter Tromp
2015 was a big year for David Kramer. ‘Orpheus In Africa’ felt like a partial reinvention and a significant artistic peak for the director. It was definitely the best work that Kramer had produced since the high watermark of the Kramer/Petersen era, ‘Ghoema’, and I would say that it even rivalled that production in terms of quality and what a musical can mean as a historical document. ‘District 6 Kanala’, although coming across as well intentioned, feels like a step backwards for Kramer at this point.
The production was conceived to commemorate the 50 year anniversary of the forced removals from District 6, which took place in 1966, yet there’s not that much about the production that telegraphs the momentousness of this unfortunate milestone. ‘District 6 Kanala’ feels very much like a repurposed Petersen/Kramer musical.
There were numerous times where the format made me feel like I was watching a tribute show – a dazzlingly professional tribute show, mind you, but a tribute show nonetheless, albeit one featuring many of the director’s own compositions from the Kramer/Petersen songbook. Clichéd banter and little contextualising passages segue into one song and dance sequence after another. The story, such as it is, feels tacked on. ‘District 6 Kanala’ ultimately fails to rise to the occasion of the milestone it wants to commemorate – there’s just too little gravitas on display.
That’s not to say it isn’t fun. If there is one area where ‘District 6 Kanala’ scores major points is in the humour department. Kramer has assembled a coterie of gifted regulars over the years that he populates his productions with, and many of these performers are multitalented forces, none more so than Sne Dladla, who is in absolute top form. He even gets to show off his impressive vocal chops.
Also a treat in this production is Loukmaan Adams, who is at his best as a comedic actor when his humour appears off the cuff. The audience was roaring during the segment in which he plays a Malay choir maestro.
‘District 6 Kanala’ feels like a stopgap in Kramer’s creative resurgence. Although I didn’t mind taking a “trip down memory lane,” I can’t wait for Kramer’s next, proper artistic statement.
* Book at Computicket.