Peter Tromp – The Next 48 Hours

It doesn’t happen very often at all, but every once in a while you get to see a production that is so tender and that hits the right notes so perfectly that what is happening in front of you feels like a little miracle. ‘London Road’ is such a production. It absolutely illuminated the audience I was gathered with on the evening I attended the Kalk Bay Theatre, and the standing ovation the cast received felt perfectly deserved.

Ntombi Makhutshi and Robyn Scott in ‘London Road’
Ntombi Makhutshi and Robyn Scott in ‘London Road’
The play is in the mould of such tender, intimate two-handers of recent years that has included works like Lara Foot Newton’s ‘Reach’, Juliet Jenkin’s ‘Venom’, ‘…miskien’, directed by Tara Louise Notcutt and even ‘Jutro’, by Helen Iskander.
That’s not to say ‘London Road’ is any kind of genre exercise. It is resolutely its own creature, packed with lots of keenly observed detail and quite the savage wit. It is writer’s Nicholas Spagnoletti’s tribute to London Road in Sea Point, where he resides, and his first produced play.

Spagnoletti cut his performance teeth on Theatresports for years, but what he has produced here is quite unexpected. ‘London Road’, just like Jenkin’s award winning debut play ‘The Boy Who Fell From The Road’, is shockingly full formed for a new work from a new writer.

The skill with which Spagnoletti charts the emotional journey of Stella (Ntombi Makhutshi), an illegal alien from Nigeria who also happens to deal a bit of drugs on the side (only to wealthy yuppie-types, she points out at one stage) and is also HIV positive, and Stella (Robyn Scott), an old Jewish lady pretty much abandoned by her emigrated children and who fills her time becoming involved in her local community, is pretty astonishing. Stella and Rosa’s worlds couldn’t be more different, yet they find common ground and solace in one another because they are in essence both sensitive outsiders who have been mistreated by their supposed real families.

These kinds of plays, because they wear their sincerity so self-consciously on their sleeves, can sometimes feel manipulative of the audience, but there is no danger of that here.
The craft, pacing and desire to entertain are too strong for anyone to do anything other than surrender to the show wholeheartedly. Even when the play becomes slightly sentimental, it feels right because the production works hard to earn the trust of the audience.

This fine balancing of nuances is no surprise, because in Lara Bye we have at the helm one of our most intuitive directors.
She gets two wonderful, unforgettable performances from her actresses, but it is especially Scott, who has accrued a truly amazing body of work, that is on song here. This might just deliver her finest performance to date.
You will not find as emotionally enveloping and rewarding a play as ‘London Road’ anywhere at the moment. Don’t miss it.

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