Fact: Take a fly. Put it in a snuff box. It will die. Probably from nervous exhaustion. This, along with many more interesting facts and naked truths, are unearthed …
One of the sold-out hit productions at last year’s National Arts Festival (NAF) in Grahamstown, Tobacco, and the Harmful Effects Thereof, will be performed at the Baxter Flipside from 20 May to 13 June at 7.30pm.
Directed by Sylvaine Strike and starring Andrew Buckland, with a haunting guest appearance by Toni Morkel, the production marks a long overdue collaboration between the two Standard Bank Young Artist winners - Strike (2006) and Buckland (1986).
Steve Kretzmann from Artsblog agrees, saying, “Buckland's unrivalled performance combined with Sylvaine Strike's masterful direction is an experience that, like grief, never leaves over time, it merely winds its way into our soul.”
Mary Corrigall from The Sunday Independent gave it five stars and said, “The vulnerability of Andrew Buckland's consummate performance coupled with the sensitivity and minute attention to detail of Sylvaine Strike's masterful direction, and the perfect dosage of Toni Morkel's haunting appearances combine to guide the audience quite gently towards a dark place, a precipice between tragedy and comedy.”
“This is undoubtedly a way overdue creative collaboration between Andrew and me,” explains Sylvaine. “Somehow, the timing was just right when William Harding presented me with the first draft of his text for the play. I realised straight away that it was the perfect material for us to combine our styles and our similar approach to the creative process.”
The play tells the story of Ivan, who is not a professor, but is told by his wife to give a lecture on the harmful effects of tobacco, even though he is himself a small smoker. What follows is not so much a lecture, as an unfolding of the often hilarious and poignant journey of a man trying to be heard for the first time.
The production is an adaptation of Anton Chekhov's monologue "On the Harmful Effects of Tobacco", re-imagined, in cut-up technique, in collaboration with Franz Kafka, Edward Lear and Andre Breton, amongst others.
The creative team is made up of William Harding (last seen at the Baxter in Strike's production of The Miser in 2013), who is responsible for the adaptation, with costume and lighting design by Strike and set design by Chen Nakar.
Strike and her company, The Fortune Cookie Theatre Company, have wowed local audiences with productions such as The Miser, Black and Blue, The Travellers and Baobabs Don’t Grow Here, all staged at the Baxter over the last few years. In 2014 she was the Featured Artist at the NAF, where she showcased five different productions.
Diane de Beer from The Star at the time said, "As the featured artist at this year’s National Arts Festival, Sylvaine Strike blew everyone out of the water with her body of work which was joyous to experience… Each one of those productions was a shimmering example of Strike’s work. Taking the honour seriously, there wasn’t a detail missed in any of these works, all of which should still be doing the circuit – truly extraordinary."
Andrew Buckland has become a firm favourite at the Baxter starring in productions such as, most recently, Blue Orange, Scrooge, Laugh the Buffalo, The Baxter Andrew Buckland Festival, showcasing The Ugly Noo Noo, Between the Teeth and Mistero Buffo and Betrayal.
Toni Morkel was last seen at the Baxter in 2006 in The Travellers when she played the mother character.
Following its success last year, the production will return to the National Arts Festival in July this year, and in September it will be presented at the Amsterdam Fringe in Holland.
Tobacco, and the Harmful Effects Thereof previews at the Baxter Flipside on Wednesday 20 and Thursday 21 May and runs until 13 June at 7.30pm, with matinees on Thursday 28 May, at 11am and Saturday 30 May at 2pm.
Tickets cost R120 (previews, matinees and Baxter Mondays), R130 (Tuesday to Thursday) and R150 on Fridays and Saturdays.
Booking is through Computicket on 0861 915 8000, online or at any Shoprite Checkers outlet. For discounted corporate, schools or block-bookings, charities or fundraisers, contact Sharon on 021 680 3962, email email@example.com or Carmen on 021 680 3993, email firstname.lastname@example.org.