Arts Review: Redhill Arts Festival 2023 – Laughs And Laments, Or Fathers Versus Patriarchy

August 6, 2023

 

By BRUCE DENNILL

 

Redhill Arts Festival / Redhill School, Johannesburg

 

Desperately Seeking Souvlaki / Starring Costa Carastavrakis / Directed by Renos Spanoudes

An author and motivational speaker who found the rules of writing stand-up comedy useful when writing his memoir, I Am Costa, Costa Carastavrakis has only relatively recently begun stepping onto the stage as a comedian. Stand-up is one of the most vulnerable performance formats around and Carastavrakis is open about tough issues such as coming to terms with his sexuality in a conservative community and being a reformed drug addict, gamely managing to see the lighter side of those experiences. His comedy flow is not yet  well-developed, though, and a hint of nerves plus a tendency to get slightly distracted – as he dryly explains, “One of the effects of frying your brain with drugs” – mean that his act is not yet fully engaging. However, his focus on Greek culture and its foibles, as well as the way his background has shaped him gives  Desperately Seeking Souvlaki a pleasing theme that certainly hits its mark with audience members with similar backgrounds.

 

He Had It Coming / Starring Kim Blanche Adonis / Directed by Daniel Mpilo Richards

A collection of sketches featuring multiple characters and featuring no set other than a black box in the centre of the stage, He Had It Coming relies on the power of its script  to make an impact. Playwright Mike Van Graan is rightly renowned for blistering satire – there are at least a couple of moments in each of his shows where you find yourself silently asking the question. “Did he just go there?” – that not only highlights issues but offers, in language often tinged with righteous anger, a hint at a solution. The constant theme in this hour of intense performance is the damage caused by entrenched patriarchal views and practices, so the solution is often as simple as “Men – try harder,” but such messaging is never delivered in a preachy way. Performer Kim Blanche Adonis is astounding, barefoot and clad all in black by yet somehow clearly morphing from one character to the next: here, feisty and hopeful; there, broken and disconsolate; one moment causing shocked laughter, the next prompting introspection and sadness. It’s brilliant writing that is almost outshone by Adonis’ performance: fantastic festival fare.

 

Striking A Chord / Starring Adrian and Emma-Jean Galliard / Directed by Kirsty Galliard

Father and daughter Adrian and Emma-Jean Galliard became famous as a YouTube sensation, gaining large numbers of fans for their versions of standards sung in their rich, well-matched voices. Striking A Chord expands on that concept, collecting a number of beautiful pieces connected by scripted dialogue, with the vocalists accompanied by Neil Bennett on piano. The show’s title is forceful, but the Galliards are gentle sorts, which is reflected in the humour and pacing. Choreography is minimal, with the setlist to showcase the pair’s pleasing harmonies and the occasional solo, with Emma-Jean showing off excellent soprano pitching. She’s just 14 now, so the power of her voice will improve even further with more training, practice and performance. Easy listening with a welcome absence of cynicism.

 

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