James Cairns in his one-man show comedy Dirt. Dirt is the story of three friends and a dog travelling together to a funeral, 20 June, 2010. Grahamstown, Eastern Cape. (CUEPIX/Dominique Little)

RESPECTED actor James Cairns is to perform in the hit play, Dirt, in Pietermaritzburg this week.

Nominated for multiple awards and written by Nick Warren (head writer for Takalani Sesame in South Africa), the play explores issues of friendship through a road trip that takes a group of besties on a roller coaster ride of emotions and discovery.

According to the synopsis, after almost a year in which they have gone their separate ways, poker club members get back together to bury their mutual friend.

On a journey from Joburg to Cape Town the trio – all played by Cairns – trade insinuations, insults, and injuries as they try to dig up the past and bury the present.

In a chat with Tonight about the play, directed by Jenine Collocott, Cairns said the piece was closely based on Warren’s life experience.

“I play nine characters in the play… To make it look easy takes a high level of concentration,” he laughed.

Cairns said although it was a South African story, Dirt had a universal appeal and had been well received wherever it had been staged.

“It’s high-end theatre, but without the artsy fartsy,” he joked, adding: “We’ve done Dirt more than a 100 times in South Africa and in Australia.

“The show was also invited to go to the Brighton Festival in the UK, but unfortunately I had other commitments around the same time.

“Dirt is a great story… there’s also a dog that’s an intricate part of the story and he’s a hit with the audience. And it’s not a real dog… I play the dog… There is a bit of an age restriction, two to 14, because the language is quite true to life… but there’s no nudity, I keep my clothes on,” he laughed.

Cairns said he had worked with director Collocott on many productions – and with good reason. “She is hard. She doesn’t take second-best and she knows what she’s doing.”

Cairns, who lives in Kensington, Joburg, and has performed and written extensively for South African screen and stage, spent part of his high school years in Pietermaritzburg and is excited to be returning to the city.

Cairns won a Silver Ovation Award at the 2011 National Arts Festival for his two-hander, Sie Weiss Alles. He was also nominated for Fleur de Cap awards for his performances in Dirt and The Sitting Man. The artist has his hands full, juggling a career on and off stage.

“I’ll be doing a play next at The Market Theatre in March-April, which I can’t say too much about at this stage.

“I’m also working on a documentary about Nelson Mandela’s car. I will be back in KwaZulu-Natal in September at the Witness Hilton Arts Festival, performing Snow Goose.”

• Dirt stages at UKZN’s The Hexagon Theatre, Pietermaritzburg, on February 13 at 7.30pm. Tickets R60 (R50 for students and seniors). Book at Computicket. The show moves to Michael- house at the Schlesinger Theatre on February 14 at 7.30pm. Tickets R60. Michael- house bookings: Angela Jonsson on 033 234 1314 (weekdays 8am to 1pm).