It was almost a treat to receive this rather negative review which makes the rest of the hysterical praise all the sweeter.
London Road is a street in the now-affluent Cape Town suburb of Sea Point. But it wasn’t always that way. It was once seen as a dangerous area due to absent landlords and a high population of drug dealers but has become gentrified in recent years. In London Road, Sea Point, Nicholas Spagnoletti explores this shift in economy and culture and its effect on the community, but though Robyn Scott offers an extraordinary performance as an old widow, Lara Bye’s production lacks theatrical intrigue and lags throughout.
Scott adds on 30 years to play the role of Rosa, an elderly Jewish widow who befriends the younger Stella (Ntombi Makhutshi), who has come from Nigeria to settle in Sea Point. After meeting following a break-in, they realise they have much in common and help one another out through tough times, with Makhutshi’s character experiencing trouble at the hands of drug dealers but eventually acting like a sister to Rosa in her final weeks.
The performances on show are what gives London Road, Sea Point its clout, and watching their relationship grow over the course of an hour feels like watching life in fast-forward. Makhutshi shifts from cold, aloof outsider to warm friend smoothly, her final broad smile embodying the change in her character. Scott is almost the exact opposite: brazen, loud and crude. Like Catherine Tate’s Nan, she chuckles at her own jokes and distrusts others. She likewise makes a transition – this time from strong to weak – with incredible nuance, and in her final few scenes we forget she is a 40-year-old actress as she deteriorates into a shaking, bewildered husk.
Bye naturally deserves praise for finding these performances, but this is a production which moves with no sense of urgency and fails to really account for the way in which their environment is changing. By focusing so minutely on these two women and stripping back the design to nothing but a table, everything else in this world seems inconsequential, thus negating the point Spagnoletti makes about Sea Point’s changing demographics.
London Road, Sea Point is a carefully crafted piece about friendship but feels too introspective to have any wider point. There are scenes which feel unnecessary and don’t move along this relationship, and though Makhutshi and Scott truly embody these characters neither begins as particularly likeable. Spagnoletti paints well on a microscopic scale, but the lack of wider context in both play and production means it feels like a somewhat wasted opportunity.
- See more at: http://www.ayoungertheatre.com/edinburgh-fringe-review-london-road-sea-point-assembly-george-square/