CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - MARCH 09: during the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour starting at Civic Centre and finishing at Cape Town Stadium on March 09, 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Cindy Taylor/Gallo Images)

Curl Up and Dye
Director: Christopher Weare
Cast: Students of the UCT Drama Department
Venue: Intimate Theatre
until: Saturday
Rating: ***


Twenty-five years have passed since the period in which this play is set, and audiences viewing Curl Up and Dye now will find in it sobering material for reflection on what has changed in South Africa over the last quarter-century, and what has not.

Sue Pam-Grant’s work still has the power to amuse, touch, and stimulate its spectators.

Life in 1989 for most South Africans was imbued with apprehension, whatever their racial grouping: violence, both physical and psychological, pervaded everyday existence, even affecting such unlikely milieus as ladies’ hairdressing salons. Curl Up and Dye, in Joburg’s Joubert Park, is a case in point, and the grimness of the pun in its name is not fortuitous.

Patrons and personnel of this establishment have a common denominator: they are women whose lives leave much to be desired.

Rolene, the manageress of the business, is a victim of domestic violence. Miriam, the long-suffering factotum, is overworked and underpaid. Charmaine, a regular patron of the salon, is neurotic and drug-dependent. Mrs Du Bois, another habituée, is chronically insecure and discontented, while Ms Dudu, a new client, is the homeless absentee mother of two. Not a happy quintet.

The volatile mix of these personalities and their interactions, which range from hostile to compassionate, form the plot’s nucleus.

Ensemble acting from the all-female cast is neat, but Sive Gubangxa upstages everyone with her warmth and maturity in the role of Miriam. Moreover, she has the additional merit of clear diction, a quality lacking in some of her peers who tend to swallow their words in the hectic pace of their delivery.

Shoni Masutha, as Ms Dudu, has an enviable command of facial repertoire, and Nicole Fortuin (Rolene) convincingly radiates stress. Christopher Weare, as usual, brings long experience to bear on the young talent under his direction, making Curl Up and Dye rewarding and relevant theatre.