As patrons noisily filed in to take their seats for the opening night of ‘Pay Back the Curry’, the theatre was already abuzz. Intriguingly, Daniel Richards was already on stage… and apart from him and a guitar the stage was a blank canvas.
When you go watch a one man show with a minimalist set design you can’t but be fascinated, trying to anticipate what the show has in store… Is it but a clever ploy to influence our imagination and challenge (or maybe even distort) our perception? In ‘Pay Back the Curry’ the absence of set elements cleverly aids in showcasing the skill of the actor and in fact enhances the satirical theatre experience. The negative space, with its subtle use of follow spot accentuation, in fact supports Richards in superbly carrying the narrative penned by Mike van Graan. In permitting space to move, the physical theatre elements also compliments Richard’s flawless monologue deliveries with influential prop-substitution movements.
All-in-all the ‘design’ and atmosphere so created made the show a delightful theatre experience, introduced as a time traveling tourist package that transports us from a fragile and beautiful future, back to a terrible time of state control and atrociously enforced value systems, just to then get stuck in the present revealed for the bizarre reality it is.
You wouldn't believe a script like this could effectively be translated to stage until you actually sit there revelling in its fantastic power: It is uncomfortable, funny, poignant and dignified in its indignation. It balances out the very serious food for thought with ample intelligent humour, resulting in numerous gasps, morphing into giggles, accentuated with vigorous head nodding from a thoroughly entertained audience.
The pace of the performance is also staggering! You will find yourself repeatedly being whisked from one ‘set’ to the next, being introduced and reintroduced to authentically South African caricatures. Surprisingly, the quick ‘set’ changes, did not impacting on the continuity of the production at all.
Van Graan’s text, brought to stage under the direction of Rob van Vuuren, is a stirring social satire that is as on point as it is up to date. A true example of the mastery of the short narrative, probably best expressed in the delightful tongue-in-cheek Shakespearean soliloquy that had the audience squirming with glee by the end of the play. If you were wondering why Mike van Graan is an award-winning playwright, you need look no further than the ironic iconic gems that he has woven together to form the total package that is ‘Pay back the Curry’.
Ultimately, it is a great acting feat to do justice to Van Graan’s vision, and Daniel Richards deserves to be applauded for his performance in ‘Pay Back the Curry’. His interpretation of the various and varied personas showcased on stage were wonderfully believable, powerful and very emotive.
As a one man play, ‘Pay Back the Curry’ presents a mature mind-set, intelligent discourse and incredibly witty digs at stereotyping. No stone is left unturned, as it focuses on both the Proudly South African aspects of our country, along with the uncomfortable and painful divide that still characterises our Rainbow Nation.
Be prepared to feel, to laugh, to think and hopefully to continue to do all three long after you have left the Baxter Theatre. So go book your tickets at Computicket to see it before 27 August, and then go see it again at Kalk Bay Theatre (30 August to 10 September), as this Siv Ngesi produced 'Pay Back the Curry' is a production you dare not miss!