Actors on point with witty delivery

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Silly Mid On
Written and directed by Nicholas Ellenbogen
Cast: Nicholas Ellenbogen and Sandile Khamle
Venue: Rosebank Theatre
UNTIL: March 29 (Wednesday to Saturday)
Rating: ****

 

There is absolutely nothing silly about this bright, intelligent two-hander from Nicholas Ellenbogen, whose quirky wit finds its latest expression in a culture clash between cricket spectators at Newlands – a topical theme at this time of year.

When Eric Wisdom Tshabalala encounters Anthony Lasher Dawkins, their unlikely juxta- position proves a life-changing experience for both, in a positive way.

Wisdom is an entrepreneurial Black Diamond of conveniently flexible morals, for whom no situation lacks the potential for turning a buck. Lasher is a genteel retired schoolmaster from Bishops, whose finances appear to be vaguely distressed; he is the beneficiary of a coveted seat in the Members’ Stand at Newlands, a retirement gift from the school.

Wisdom, an enthusiastic polygamist, is attending cricket through the good offices of wife number two, who happens to be the Minister of Sport on parlia- mentary duty in Cape Town.

Lasher’s moral and social conservatism is played off against Wisdom’s more inventive approach to life’s issues, making for piquant comedy.

Corruption reigns supreme in big ways and small. For instance, a hip flask of expensive whisky is flaunted with impunity by the well-connected Wisdom in a venue where consumption of alcohol is banned.

Like test cricket, the relation- ship between this ill-assorted pair evolves over five days, progressing from wary exploration and mutual distrust to genuine warmth.

It culminates in the camaraderie of turf theft as a memento of the game, accom- panied by drunken rendition of Libiamo from La Traviata.

Ellenbogen (pictured with Khamle) in the role of Lasher captures all the endearing eccentricity of this mild-mannered retiree from the moment we first find him cleaning pigeon droppings from seats in the Members’ Stand. His performance provides the perfect foil for that of Sandile Khamle as the ebullient, larger-than-life Wisdom.

Khamle not only acts up a storm; he has a generous voice which is heard to advantage in both praise-singing (an unorthodox welcome to the players as they come on-pitch) and in operatic mode when singing Verdi.

A touching cameo is his monologue in which he recalls his youth in the Eastern Cape, when he first became aware of the game of cricket and, simultaneously, of how to generate income off any oppor- tunity presenting itself…

David Scales’s economical set is more than adequate for the action, and the artfully arranged garments and hats on seats surrounding Lasher obviate the need for extra cast. Brilliant satirical comedy, even if you don’t like cricket.

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