Billed as a satirical comedy about an extra-terrestrial cult, Marsha: The Beginning of the End (currently on stage at Alexander Upstairs) has sardonic elements that remind of KIDCASINO and Father, Father, Father, with the potential to play in the same deliciously off-centre theatre arena.
In this production, you meet Marshini (Jazzara Jaslyn) and Marshinini (Kiroshan Naidoo) as they're preparing to be taken to meet their leader Marsha on Mars, because the ‘logical’ answer to David Bowies’ question is indeed, ‘Yes, there's life on Mars’.
First impressions are dominated by a stage heavily covered in tinfoil —purposively so it seems, by a team with an eye for detail. The reflective stage design (reminding of what you would expect from a super-silly 80s sci-fi movie) does not necessarily play to the darker, satire-driven issues of religion, acceptance (by the self and others), belonging, abandonment, and trust that one can find in the story. By ‘lightening’ it up it reflects the apparent comedy (which in itself is fun), while the depths that inform ‘the taking’ may go unnoticed by some.
The use of digital projections to communicate with the audience through a live-streaming/recording of Marshini and Marshinini's final hour is a nifty trick. They document how they were found by Marsha (or how they found Marsha with the aid of sacred Fruit Loops) and how they’re preparing to meet her as the only two chosen civilians (along with a celebrity) worthy enough to be saved from a world filled with narrow-minded (caveman) people. The production also makes clever use of transformation techniques to make Marshini and Marshanini’s eye-brows disappear for an extra take-me-to-your-leader cult feel.
It is in between the styling and the staging that the focus of the production perhaps falls less on the intriguing social commentary that hides in the sub-text, and more on the odd-ball and eccentric-inspired giggles. As a choice, this needs to be respected. The concept (although not new) is well-informed. Marsha: The Beginning of the End has great potential to grow into a production that can leap from being just fun and quirky to ridiculingly-ridiculous and inspired as this work-shopped production evolves over time.
For this reviewer, the pace of the build-up to ‘the taking’ does not quite match the expected anticipation and anxiety one would associate with characters who embrace the cult-life. This results in the lines that get the laughs feeling isolated rather than adding to the required rhythm of the narrative. In its current form the show falls somewhere between cult satire (Father, Father, Father) and sitcom (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt).
All-in-all Marsha: The Beginning of the End presents theatre lovers with an hour of fun entertainment that will break the mundaneness of the working-week —an escapism option that Marsha herself would approve of. The show also presents itself as an opportunity to see a different facet of Naidoo and Jaslyn’s acting talent. And as an added bonus, buying your tickets to see Marshini and Marshinini get galactically distracted is also a great reason to visit the Alexander Bar now that their upstairs theatre is again open for creative offerings. Theatre wins!
Book your tickets online at alexanderbar.co.za to see Marsha: The Beginning of the End before the run ends on 21 September 2018.