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SCENE IT: Exceptional SPIDER WOMAN at the Baxter Theatre

Barbara Loots


Manuel Puig’s masterpiece, KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN (translated to English by Allan Baker) addresses heavy themes without creating a smothering atmosphere – a tricky feat which the latest staging at the Baxter Theatre pulls off with great ease.

Puig’s KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMEN plays within the realm of intrigue and suspense rather than anxiety riddled trepidation, as the ideal of justice shines through in his characters’ game of escapism through fantasy. Sylvaine Strike’s direction plays to this strength as the whole production is staged (with the audience placed around the caged actors) to support this from a sensory perspective.

Wessel Pretorius (as the flamboyant emissary, Molino) lures you in with his retelling of the movie Cat People, sketching a vivid picture with his mannerisms. Mbulelo Grootboom (as the reflective political prisoner, Valentin) balances the high energy of Pretorius with measured consideration of every word and gesture, while letting the audience know that something is bubbling below the surface that can bring physical and emotional havoc to the confined corners of the relationship at play.

The production is a striking tapestry of visuals, words and music. Composer Brendan Jury masterfully supports the emotions at play with his musical genius, while the set design by Wolf Britz (expertly supported by Mannie Manim’s lighting design) effectively creates a steely play pen within which the characters and their dreams of freedom are caged, much like the panther in the Cat People.

This latest staging of KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN is a triumph. When an almost 2 hour long play feels like 30mins and keeps you on the edge of your seat from the first word, you know it’s something truly special. I walked out not only hoping, but knowing, that it is still possible after the chaos of the last few years to be completely immersed in a play that lingers in your thoughts for days after.

You can go immerse yourself in this political drama at the Baxter Theatre until 26 March 2022. Tickets are available at Webtickets and all Covid protocols are observed.


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