By BRUCE DENNILL
Crazy In Love / Directed by Rob Murray / Barney Simon Theatre, Market Theatre, Johannesburg
There has been much weeping and gnashing of teeth over the state of straight theatre in South Africa, where venues are packed with musicals, tribute shows and re-runs – one-man comedy pieces, hypnotists and the like.
But Crazy In Love, a tragicomic two-hander starring Andrew Buckland and Liezl De Kock, was so full that audience members were sitting on the stairs in the aisle, and this two-thirds of the way through the show’s Johannesburg run. Given, it’s not a standard production, combining as it does the physical theatre nous of Buckland and De Kock (both multiple award-winners); director Rob Murray, who specialises in this sort of niche package; and set and prop designer Jayne Batzofin, whose use of random parking lot and garden shed detritus to create a structure that is at once a home, a shrine and a trailer is ingenious. But it’s still a show that is built on the strength of its script and the ability of its cast, rather than the size of the ensemble or the volume of the soundtrack.
Crazy In Love is a tiny, intimate story with a raucous, passionate soul. Leon (Buckland) is a charming ne’er-do-well given grounding and direction by a woman who turns out to be much more than just another patch of warm skin to cuddle up to en route to the next con. Their union produces a child, Ginny (De Kock), who Leon is holding in his arms at the altar when he and his soulmate decide to make things official. The bride is a no-show, though, and Leon never recovers from the incident, descending into alcoholism even as he, with Ginny in tow, tours every backwater in South Africa to try and find his missing partner.
Leon’s bitterness manifests itself in both humour – of the black, acid sort – and snappiness directed at his daughter. Ginny, now a young woman, has issues of her own, having grown up without a mother’s input and now becoming acutely aware of her own sexuality.
The sparseness of the set and the design of the props leaves plenty of room for Buckland and De Kock to exercise their world-class physical theatre skills. Buckland is wiry and twitchy, his actions often driven by pent-up fury. De Kock is a wide-eyed dynamo, matching Ginny’s passion with a naivete borne of a profound lack of sophistication (difficult to avoid when you grow up pushing a trolley around countless faceless dorps).
There’s some risky writing, with one particular passage including enough foul language to make a Premier League footballer blush, though in context, everything works superbly. Leon and Ginny’s story is just a vignette; a brief insight into a difficult, lonely situation. There is hilarity – and often absurdity – there too, as well as moments of warmth and comfort.
This show will no doubt enjoy many future runs. If you missed it in Johannesburg, get yourself to wherever it goes next.