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DIRECTOR/PLAYWRIGHT: Janna Ramos-Violante
CAST: Glen Biederman and Jenna Dunster
VENUE: PopART, Maboneng Precinct
One of the thrilling experiences of theatre is to witness explosive young talent explore and develop.
It’s part of a well-rounded theatre scene, something South Africans often complain about, but when you look at our total landscape, it’s amazing how artists have survived and flourished in a tough environment.
From the classics to new work, it’s the full complement that’s out there if you’re willing to look, venture and find those artists in different venues.
Janna Ramos-Violante is one of those young adventurers on the theatrical scene who is writing and directing and when she’s invited, or can put it together herself, acting.
Just back from Kwazulu-Natal’s Hilton Festival, where she was producing and performing in Doubt, Phobic is one of two pieces she has written and directed, playing in the city. (The other is Callum’s Will, which has finished a short run at UJ).
This one is a debut work and the exciting thing is both the novelty of the writing and the young performers, who are given a chance to experiment with style and substance in a space that is fast developing as the nurturing ground for new work.
Phobic has an almost vignette-like quality. Just short of an hour long, it’s as if you take a peek into the lives of two broken souls without a beginning or end.
You don’t know why Greg is an agoraphobic or why Annie, the Irish actress, would lose her heart to someone who isn’t capable of giving anything. And when she leaves, there’s no reason to believe they will ever meet again.
There are hints, like “twisted Oliver”, to more damage than we see, but the quirkiness of the tale, the deftness of the direction, give you glimpses of what might be unfolding and encourage you to embroider your own stories of these interrupted lives.
Both of the actors are given a tightrope to walk and in this vulnerable yet protected space, they are allowed to pull and stretch their limits.
Phobic is young theatre that should appeal to young audiences as it is their stories that are being told. But there’s also an intriguing quality to both the writing and the performances that should attract a wider audience.
Perhaps to add to the weight of the evening, it would have been good to have a companion piece, with the same actors, in roles that could either complement or work against these particular characters.
Either way, it’s worth popping in to catch these artists on the rise in a space that’s been created for work that needs a launching pad.