By BRUCE DENNILL
From Koe’siestes To Kneidlach / Directed by Megan Furniss / Auto & General Theatre On The Square, Sandton, Johannesburg
Writer-actress Chantel Stanfield tells the true story, on a plain stage with just a trio of drapes and a chequered floor covering of her journey from one culture to another, and of her eventual settling in a happy compromise somewhere in the middle.
Stanfield is of Coloured heritage, having grown up in the Cape Flats, while her husband, singer RJ Benjamin, comes from a fairly orthodox Jewish family. Her story is presented as one long monologue, broken by movement to and fro across the stage and the carrying and placing of the couple of chairs and a single table that are the only props used throughout.
The script is simple, guileless and gently funny, almost like an extended column on the topic of integration in the back of a glossy magazine. Stanfield’s use of language is consistently clever, mixing plain conversational English with the mixed patois of the Flats and the rich Yiddish lingo – always in an amusing way and occasionally to the point of inspiring a belly laugh or two. She also, meaningfully, takes an opportunity to call some of her new community on the lazy use of a word that inspires pain in others – a striking, sobering moment among all the levity.
What the piece lacks in complexity and sophistication, it more than makes up for in charm. Stanfield is an attractive, statuesque actress kept briskly active by Megan Furniss’ direction and Paul Choritz’s soundtrack, which stirs her to dance on and off the stage to mark the end of one scene and the beginning of another. Because it’s a monologue, there is no fourth wall and Stanfield is able to address the audience collectively as though she was just chatting to a friend. The situations she describes are very easy to relate to – everyone who’s ever been in a relationship has gone through some form of the experience she has, even if their version didn’t involve a pop star, gefilte fish and a rabbi. And she’s a talented, sure-footed performer who keeps the crowd engaged throughout, meaning that the spell is only broken when the lights come up.