By BRUCE DENNILL
Love Sex Fleas God / Directed by Celia Musikanth / POPArt Theatre, Maboneng, Johannesburg
A one-man play based on author Bruce Clark’s memoir of the same name, Love Sex Fleas God tells the tale of its protagonist’s full, complex and often desperately sad life. Clark experienced a troubled childhood – his mother was a Scientologist who dumped her kids with their grandmother and skipped the country, leaving and marrying multiple partners along the way – who spent time living as a hobo before eventually settling down with his wife Christine and having two kids, whose existence forced him to recognise his past and problems again, if only so that he could try and avoid repeating them.
Actor David Muller fills Clark’s shoes on stage and has a lovely, friendly presence filled out with a rich, resonant speaking voice. His visage is not as worn as Clark’s, but he’s good enough to convince you that he’s been through the same rigours.
The issue is that the script is not nearly as effective as the book, though it covers the same ground. It’s very linear, simply describing one scenario after another as they happened, be they exciting or relatively banal, rather than creatively editing the narrative to give it the impact the various themes might deliver if given the chance. The exploration by Clark’s mother of a cult that captured her and destroyed her family is an exciting thread. The passage of his life spent penniless and on the streets, and the impact that had on his health, bears further investigation. Both themes are underdeveloped.
Clark’s experiences as a parent, fathering his children at a relatively late age, are more mainstream and require creative presentation if they are to entertain in a fresh way. Yet these are treated in a conservative way and delivered crisply and with warmth, but with no unique insight or real humour – and they fill the vast bulk of the stage time. As a result, the play feels like it drags somewhat, and could probably be trimmed by ten or even 15 minutes.
Love Sex Fleas God is terrifically sincere and tells the story of a very interesting man, but it does not do his exceptional story justice in this format.