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DIRECTOR: Jayne Batzofin
CAST: Christopher Beukes, Sinethemba Mgebisa, Asanda Rilityana, Marlon Snyders
VENUE: the Golden Arrow Studio, The Baxter Theatre
FTH: K have stuck to their trademark visual panache with their latest little gem.
Devised last year by the FTH: K trainees, originally under the direction of Rob Murray, and now Jayne Batzofin, the series of sketches takes us through the grind of the daily 9-5 faced by office workers.
This is a silent work, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any dialogue going on, it just isn’t spoken words. It is a more physical than conceptual piece, with the last sequence especially, The Art of War, drawing on the cast’s dance skills.
We get a handle on the pecking order, see how one newcomer handles a promotion to become one of the guys, and what it feels like to be the only woman trying to deal with the boys’ club.
It isn’t a totally soundless production – from the use of the Dave Matthews Band song Ants Marching at the beginning to the strains of Umshini wami over the last Art of War sequence – there are several well-chosen pieces of music used to further the atmosphere.
The Golden Arrow Studio at the Baxter suits the production better than the bigger space of the Intimate theatre, adding a touch of claustrophobia so familiar to office workers. Everyone is dressed in grey and the chairs dressed in their grey suits adds to the depressing tone of sameness of office work.
The four actors tackle the role of smarmy boss (Beukes), eager newbie (Mgebisi), put-upon only female (Rilityana – she’s not one of the trainees, she’s a freelancer who auditions to take over from Lies de Kock in this role) and stoic worker bee (Snyders).
Since the preview I saw at the Intimate Theatre last year November, they’ve refined the script a little and the actors (the guys specifically, this is the first time I’ve seen Rilityana in this role) aren’t hamming it up anymore, having settled nicely into their roles.
Gestures are more crisp and detailed and not as overblown, with Beukes especially not trying to telegraph every move.
Instead he is more controlled and measured – and all the more menacing for it – while Snyders adds a delicate touch of poignancy with his sad-sack worker. Though one entire sketch is entitled The beauty of invisible things, Snyders’s character is predicated on the idea that you can never tell about people just by looking at them, as indeed is the whole production.
Just as the actors have to concentrate on externalising their experience without using words to explain how they feel, the audience has to listen with their eyes.