Review: London Road – A Perfect Piece of Theatre

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London RoadThis is a very down-to-earth tale of loss, loneliness, and the exquisite loveliness of deep friendship in a production that perfectly balances subtly-evoked emotion with witty absurdity.

Nicholas Spagnoletti’s ear for dialogue makes for a wonderfully accessible script and Lara Bye’s direction is flawless in its simplicity.  Together they’ve struck gold in bringing this award-winning spectacle to life.

London Road is, in essence, a very simple play spanning the course of several months in the lives of two female characters; the elderly Rosa (Robyn Scott) and the much younger Stella (Ntomboxolo Makhutshi). The two live in the same block of flats on London Road in Seapoint and, despite their very different personalities and histories, they share a common thread.

Rosa is a Jewish widow whose children have emigrated to Australia and Israel. She battles with memory loss and old age but keeps busy by being very involved in the lives of those around her. This is how she meets Stella, a young Nigerian woman who shares her dark sense of humour. Stella is strong, street smart and illegal in the country.

It’s easy to analyse the many messages and critiques but this play subverts the standard ‘critical’ notion. Instead of inviting the viewer to read into the narrative, the narrative allows you to read into yourself. And yet this ‘mirror’ is not a harsh one.  While the play makes many insightful commentaries on a number of personal and socio-economical subjects, the lightness of touch and the bubbling sense of humour are pervasive throughout.

The performances of the two first-class actresses are so convincing that we couldn’t believe that the elegant Robyn Scott was the same elderly woman when we saw her in the lobby of the Fugard after the performance.  On stage she embodies every inch, gesture and speech pattern of an aged soul and commands the audience with an exuberant flair of unashamed humour and fragility. Equally impressive was Makhutshi’s embodiment of the Nigerian Stella. She cracked the accent and had particular Nigerian habits such as lip-smacking down to a tee as well as a powerful composure which truly added to the realism.

This award-winning play is a perfect piece of theatre, and while its escapism is delightful, its message – to cherish those important to you – is loud and clear.

Faheem abz Abrahams

London Road runs at the Alexander Bar and Cafe from 16 – 28 December.

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