The Alexander Bar and Theatre has become a staple venue in Cape Town for showcasing local talent with its numerous short theatrical productions. This week, it brings us ‘Anthology: After the End’, directed by award-winning playwright Louis Viljoen and consisting of three one-act plays. ‘Anthology’ is actually a short-play initiative created by Louis and the other writers (Nicholas Spagnoletti and Jon Keevy), and has already seen the run of three successful seasons.
Each play is set, as the title suggests, after the end of a notable event. The first two are quite simple, and connected in certain ways. In ‘Abreast’, written by Nicholas Spagnoletti (also co-owner of Alexander Bar), we witness the clash between the representative of a corporation that preserves breast milk, and a grieving mother whose own small preservation company cannot possibly compete.
In the second play, ‘The Shepard’, written by Jon Keevy, a political party leader has a vinegar-tainted tête-à-tête with an ambitious intern. Both pieces are studies in power, and emphasise the amiable façades that are so often put up by corporates and politicians, only to be removed when most of us aren’t looking.
The actresses, Daneel van der Walt and Donna Cormack-Thomson, show off their versatility by switching from powerless in one play to empowered in the other, and vice versa. Daneel is particularly effective, effortlessly showing both flat-sandalled vulnerability and high-heeled menace in the realisation of her characters. That being said, the dialogue of both plays feels contrived at times, and we get the sense that we’ve heard conversations like these before, especially in “The Shepard”, which eventually becomes talky to the point of being annoying.
The third play, written by Louis Viljoen and entitled ‘Cherub-A-Dub-Dub’, transports us far away from what we’ve just seen, in thematic terms at least. Set only a few moments after the Rapture, it features a slacker who has not heard God’s call and is therefore left on Earth, and an angel who has descended from Heaven. What ensues is an argument over who now owns the slacker’s apartment, the hurling to and fro of various profanities, references to films with spiritual or supernatural themes, and an ultimate meditation on what it means to be human.
Interestingly, two films mentioned are The Others and The Rapture, each of which stars a former of wife of Tom Cruise (Nicole Kidman and Mimi Rogers, respectively). This begs the question as to why reference to everyone’s favourite scientologist didn’t make it into the script, particularly considering the play’s focus on religion.
This last act is hysterical, and the comic relief is necessary. It is also in this play that Donna Cormack-Thompson (who plays the weed smoking, whiskey chugging human) shows off her skill as a comedic performer. The fantasy and hilarity, however, do detract from the compactness of the entire production, which ultimately makes you feel as if you’ve nibbled on two unsubstantial starters before diving headfirst into a big sugary trifle. If the second and third plays were swapped, perhaps, then the whole trio would feel more symmetrical.
It is always a joy to be able to witness homegrown talent. I commend all those involved in this production and others like it, and eagerly look forward to another offering.
Then Wednesday 14 September at 7.00 pm (to Saturday 17 September at 7.00 pm)
Where Alexander Bar, 76 Strand Street, CBD
Cost R90 at the door, R80 online
Contact + 27 21 300 1088, [email protected], www.alexanderbar.co.za
Photography courtesy Alexander Bar, Café and Theatre
[Find out what else is going down in the Mother City on the Cape Town Etc events page]