By BRUCE DENNILL
It’s not often that biographical one-woman shows have sequels, but it makes a lot of sense that they should, as life goes on for writers and performers, and new chapters are survived, endured, enjoyed and learned from. Evidence of this is physically evident in writer and star Chantal Stanfield’s belly the moment she comes on stage, with her second child (the reason for the plural ‘kids’ in the play’s title) safely still on board.
This instalment examines the same theme as the successful – Stanfield notes, “I was getting recognised in shopping malls for theatre!” – original show. To wit: Stanfield is a coloured, nominally Christian woman from Cape Town, who is married to a white, Jewish man from Johannesburg. Both of their families are peopled with strong personalities, and the inevitable culture clashes are the source material for both humour and pathos. Added to that here are the couple’s – Stanfield’s mostly, but her man gets a look-in as an absent supporting player – challenges in adapting to parenthood, but also the layers of interaction with society (close community and random passers-by alike) that a child seems to naturally initiate.
Stanfield is a natural, confident, charming performer, working with clever, sensitive writing that has been pared down to its most effective elements. Her monologue is broken up into separate segments or skits by snippets of pop songs, to which Stanfield dances along as she prepares for the next section, crossing from one part of the simple set to the other.
There is a strong spine of activism here, calling out racism, sexism and a handful of other prejudices with insight and courage, but never a sense of awkward worthiness or virtue signalling (indeed, the latter is regularly and effectively lampooned).
Stanfield’s love for her own heritage and profound respect for her husband’s come through equally clearly, with the explanations of various rites of passage – the straightening of her gorgeous afro for a role requiring a different look, for instance – garnering delighted exclamations of delight from members of the audience who went or still go through similar experiences, and howls of laughter from everyone else, due to the excellence of the physical comedy and command of accents on display.
There may be further chapters to come in this series – the new baby and its adventures will certainly provide inspiration for a whole new subplot, and the formula Stanfield and director Megan Choritz have presented here is a model for future success, provided the same levels of attention to detail and stagecraft are applied.
This piece is a celebration of culture, relationships and returning to the stage, which will make you think as much as it makes you laugh.