THEATRE doyenne Caroline Smart will take to stage this weekend after an absence of about 20 years.
She will make a short appearance as Edith McDoodle, “the mother from hell”, in the inaugural staging of The Ladies of Lollipop Lane – a stage spin-off of the popular Lollipop Lane radio series.
Although busy behind the scenes of several theatre projects, and often called on to present at events, it’s been some time since the public saw Smart on stage.
And with The Ladies of Lollipop Lane she has her hands full, juggling her role and duties as co-director with Clinton Marius (creator, writer, director).
Tonight caught up with Smart to find out more about her role and the stage birth of the popular show’s characters.
She began with her character, Edith McDoodle: “Edith is pretty much the mother from hell. My dad came from a Scottish family and my second name is Edith, so it was a natural progression.
“She was created as a contrast to her wild and wacky daughter, Shirley, who talks to dolphins and makes smoothies from wild collections of ingredients and she loves everybody. Edith is long-suffering and makes sure everybody knows it,” she chuckles.
Smart says for the actors it’s a “quantum leap” to take their characters from the intimacy of a radio studio and working with a microphone, to a stage the size of iZulu Theatre at Sibaya Casino (which seats just fewer than 600 people).
“It requires, first of all, movement – where, for 800-odd episodes most of them never moved; it’s the voice that counts, it’s your voice that does the work. Now they have to take that character and make them move.
“So we have to make sure they are moving the way we think they would move, because they see it in their heads. Now the public have to see it.
“The interesting thing with radio work is that the listener creates their own character in their own head. So if there are 5 000 listeners, there are probably 5 000 versions of Mrs Singh-Sing and Mrs Singh-Song, for example. So for them it is also an inter- esting process to see the people who are playing them. To actually see the character in life, rather than in their imagination,” she explained.
But rehearsals have started and Smart says the cast were doing well. “It is a big challenge, because it’s also a challenge in vocal projection. The radio microphones will pick up the slightest nuance, but on a stage the size of iZulu Theatre, and the kind of microphone used for stage work, again it’s a different story.
“So technically it’s quite a challenge for them. But they are all doing wonderfully well. It’s going to be lots of fun… I think even if you never heard Lollipop Lane, you will still enjoy it.”
Smart and Marius have worked as colleagues for many years and she says it’s often the little surprises in his humour that are key to the success of his works.
“Clinton’s humour is clever. It’s understated and often quite surprising. Clinton and I go back a long way. I directed about six of his productions. He’s extremely particular, he polishes and polishes (his writing) until it’s exactly the way he wants it. He is very clear in what it is he’s trying to say.”
On a closing note Smart says she’s thankful to Lotus FM for giving Lollipop Lane a start and a space on air.
“I’m looking forward to seeing all these characters finally come together as we reach our final stages of rehearsal.”
Lollipop Lane is widely credited for rebooting interest in radio dramas. The Ladies of Lollipop Lane is the spin-off-stage leg of the brand. It is hoped the next progression will be an animated TV series.
In fact, possible investors are being encouraged to go and see show’s potential this weekend. Marius, together with the Centre for Fine Art and Design, already have a working plan in place which could see 60 locals employed in its initial phase, while also kick-starting the animation industry in KZN.
The Ladies of Lollipop Lane stars Pauline Dalais and Shika Budhoo as the much-loved Mrs Singh-Singh and Mrs Singh-Song. Dhaveshan Govender appears as Ricky. Maeshni Naicker reprises her role as the outrageous kleptomaniac pensioner, Auntie. Mpume Mthombeni appears as the irrepressible domestic help, Regina. Caitlin Kilburn is the dolphin-whispering, tree-hugging Shirley, and newcomers, Sandile Mthembu and Khanyisani Kheswa appear as the handyman, James, and his twin brother, James.
• Performances of The Ladies of Lollipop Lane are at 8pm on Friday and Saturday, with a 3pm matinee on Sunday. Book at Computicket.