Peter Tromp looks at the theatre scene in Cape Town in his regular column Theatre Buzz every month.
Raucous theatrical affair in Camps Bay
“‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ is the funniest play I have ever seen.” These are the words of famed theatre producer Pieter Toerien, so you know it carries heft. Described by international theatregoers as “‘Fawlty Towers’ meets ‘Noises Off’”, this hit comedy has won every major award on the London stage.
This South African production opened at Theatre on the Bay on May 3 and is directed by Alan Committie, with a top notch comedy cast including Robert Fridjhon, Theo Landy, Russel Savadier, Craig Jackson, Roberto Pombo, Nicole Franco, Louis Viljoen and Sive Gubangxa.
The story revolves around the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society staging of a 1920s murder mystery, but, as the title suggests, everything that can go wrong, does. The accident-prone thespians battle against all odds to make it through to their final curtain call, with humorous consequences.
“‘The Play that goes wrong’ won the Olivier award for best new comedy in 2015 and has subsequently been worked and re-worked by its original cast so as to fine-tune the moments to get maximum humour. So it’s a great basis to start with, and then add the comic genius of director Alan Committie and a fab SA cast to inject our own brand of humour, and you’ve really got a winner,” says Nicole Franco.
“From the moment the play opens, the audience are stepping onto a rollercoaster that never lets up. It’s a beautifully constructed piece, and certainly the funniest play I’ve ever worked on. It encompasses all the best elements of comedy: it’s very physical, dare I say highly dangerous, and the audience are swept along with the lunacy. In all my years in the theatre I’ve never seen or heard an audience react like this. It’s an absolute joy to play every night,” adds Russel Savadier.
According to comedy veteran Robert Fridjhon, there is no formula for being funny on stage. It ultimately comes down to hard hones instinct. “(Director) Alan (Committie) describes it best when he says that a play is like a piece of music. Each actor is an instrument in the orchestra. The trick is knowing your parts and when to play the correct notes, whilst maintaining the rhythm of the piece. It’s a rare thing that can’t be taught or learned. That’s what makes my group of fellow actors so exceptional,” says the actor.
‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ runs until June 17, Tuesdays to Fridays at 8pm and Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm. Tickets cost from R120 via Computicket or 0214383100.
The run of the multiple award winning and critically acclaimed production ‘Hemelruim’ has been extended due to “overwhelming demand.” The play will now be performed in the Fugard Studio Theatre until Saturday, May 20.
The play is the Afrikaans translation of Nick Payne’s Broadway and West End hit, ‘Constellations’. Featuring cast members Paul du Toit and Tinarie van Wyk Loots directed by Nico Scheepers, ‘Hemelruim’ won best actress awards at Aardklop and the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees for Van Wyk Loots, as well as a 2016 Fiesta award.
This was my third time seeing a production of ‘Constellations’ and I can fully understand why Van Wyk Loots left such an indelible impression on festivalgoers. The actress is as incandescent a presence as the untold number of lights that adorn Scheepers’ stage and are supposed to evoke the night sky.
‘Constellations’ is a heady piece of work that does a real emotional number on one, but it all somehow feels more accessible, almost palatable in Afrikaans. The humour certainly feels more pronounced in this translation, which evens out the tone of Payne’s work. ‘Constellations’ takes a very dour turn in its latter half, but the humour here which persists throughout serves as a welcome respite, which results in a more audience friendly experience without undercutting the original work’s heft.
Book at Computicket.