Uni­ver­sally ap­peal­ing

‘Civil Part­ing’ is about two gay men go­ing through a di­vorce, but all au­di­ences can iden­tify with it inthe

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODTHEATRE - ROBYN CO­HEN

WHEN Ni­cholas Spag­no­letti’s play Civil Part­ing was first staged in Septem­ber at Alexan­der Up­stairs, it had an al­most rap­tur­ous re­cep­tion, and now it’s back for another sea­son from Tues­day to Novem­ber 16.

Al­though the play is about two gay men go­ing through a di­vorce, it has been em­braced by all au­di­ences. It stars Pi­eter Bosch Botha and Shaun Acker and is di­rected by Zanne Solomon.

Spag­no­letti is known for his hit Lon­don Road, about an el­derly Jewish woman and a young Nige­rian man. The play wowed au­di­ences at this year’s Ed­in­burgh Fringe Festi- val and ac­tress Robyn Scott won the Fringe best ac­tress award.

It doesn’t mat­ter that the char­ac­ters in Civil Part­ing are gay. We can eas­ily iden­tify with the quirks and at­tach­ments that pull us to­gether and push us apart. Set in a lawyer’s wait­ing room, it is one of the most en­ter­tain­ing plays I have seen this year. The set and cos­tumes are fab­u­lous.

Was Spag­no­letti sur­prised by the re­sponse? “It’s about the un­rav­el­ling of a gay re­la­tion­ship, but the same sorts of things hap­pen in all break-ups, gay or straight. Peo­ple have come up to me af­ter the play and said things like, ‘Did you have a tape-recorder in my house?’ It’s the de­tails of the re­la­tion­ship stuff that peo­ple recog­nise, whether in their own re­la­tion­ships, their friends’ or their par­ents’. Happy cou­ples also find it fa­mil­iar. Many of the things that come to a head in the set­tle­ment of the re­la­tion­ship are things that crop up all along – a friend who is closer to one per­son in the cou­ple than the other; dif­fer­ences in in­come, vo­ca­tion; choices of hol­i­day desti­na­tion; go­ing out or stay­ing in; whether to have kids; where and how to live. Th­ese are all ne­go­ti­ated in all re­la­tion­ships. As peo­ple change, shifts and ten­sions in­evitably arise and things need to be rene­go­ti­ated or fought about. Th­ese things are uni­ver­sal.”

As for the hu­mour, he says: “I knew it would be en­ter­tain­ing with this team bring­ing it to life, but it turned out much fun­nier than we an­tic­i­pated. I try to write that which I en­joy watch­ing, which is the­atre that is mov­ing and cred­i­ble but also en­joy­able to watch.

“So, I did plan for the heav­ier mo­ments to be bal­anced by the hu­mour, but it took us quite by sur­prise when we re­alised that the au­di­ence laugh­ter added a full five min­utes on to the run­ning time. It is a com­edy but it is not triv­ial or friv­o­lous. Peo­ple re­spond well when some­thing is en­ter­tain­ing but also mean­ing­ful and makes them think about their own lives.”

● Civil Part­ing is on daily (ex­clud­ing Sun­days) from Tues­day to Novem­ber 16 at 7pm, with 9pm shows on Fri­days. To book, see http://shows.alexan­der­bar.co.za or call 021 300 1652. Tick­ets are R90 online or R100 by phone.

ROBYN CO­HEN

CLOSER, the ac­claimed play by Pa­trick Mar­ber about the twisted mish-mash of re­la­tion­ships among four peo­ple, is be­ing staged by the In­stant Arts Col­lec­tive and Jon Keevy at the In­ti­mate, Hid­dingh Cam­pus, from Tues­day to Novem­ber 23, with Elec­tra Natha­nia, Wes­sel Pre­to­rius, Le­soko Se­abe and Al­bert Pre­to­rius. It is di­rected by award-win­ning di­rec­tor Kim Ker­foot and Keevy has done the de­sign.

The play was first staged in 1997 in the UK and Mar­ber then adapted it for the 2004 film of the same name. The film was di­rected by Mike Ni­chols, and starred Ju­lia Roberts, Natalie Portman, Jude Law and Clive Owen.

Keevy says it is the first time that the play is be­ing pro­fes­sion­ally staged in Cape Town.

“Each of the char­ac­ters goes on a dif­fer­ent path, some more tragic than oth­ers. Some learn things, some don’t. It can’t be summed up in an easy mes­sage,” says Ker­foot.

“Closer, like life, is messy and open to in­ter­pre­ta­tion, and I sus­pect that what the au­di­ence takes away from it will largely de­pend on the bag­gage they ar­rived with.”

Civil Part­ing,

EN­TER­TAIN­ING AND MEAN­ING­FUL: Pi­eter Bosch Botha and Shaun Acker star in

which is set in a lawyer’s wait­ing room.

Closer

MISH-MASH: Al­bert Pre­to­rius and Le­soko Se­abe in

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