BWW Review: TWO TO TANGO from The Drama Factory is real and relatable
I had the pleasure of seeing TWO TO TANGO, produced by Sue Diepeveen of The Drama Factory, at both her wonderful theatre in Somerset West and at the National Arts Festival earlier this year. This production is a very real and relatable story about a superficially liberal white couple negotiating post-apartheid challenges. They're also negotiating the tricky time of life when their nest is about to become empty as their two teenaged daughters head off to university and the real world.
Mike van Graan's script uses a beautiful combination of humour and drama to cover topics that many South Africans are talking about. Originally written in 2006, this updated and shortened version created by the playwright still feels very relevant 13 years later. It's incredible to think about how much has changed in those 13 years but how much has stayed the same too.
What I really loved about this production was the vulnerability that I saw on stage by both performers. Paul du Toit as husband Andrew is wonderful to watch as he goes through the emotions of being passed over for promotion because of the colour of his skin and the constant conversations of being safe in South Africa and not wanting to leave the country. Then we have Sue Diepeveen as wife Lisa, who seems to be so in control but slowly she opens up and we get to see her anxieties about life in South Africa and about how she doesn't always feel like she is good enough. The pair matched each other well in performance and had a very natural feel together.
I think my favourite moment of the whole play was watching Lisa try to relax while Andrew attempted to make dinner. You knew exactly what was going to happen but the comic timing from the two performers was spot on and made me laugh out loud. Director Ira Blanckenberg should be proud of the pace she built in the performances. The characters flowed from comedy into drama and back again with an authentic feel. The moments of deeper emotions also came through in a way that made sense and didn't feel forced.
The one downside to this play is that it comes with a lot of scene changes. I have to say hats off to the performers for keeping that sequence in their heads and remembering all the costume changes and what they needed to move on stage before and after scenes. The use of tango music, and a few actual tangos in between scenes kept things flowing nicely. I enjoyed the fact that Blanckenberg chose to let the cast do the scene changes so that the illusion of the show wasn't broken by unknown bodies dressed in black moving around the couple's living room to set up scenes. Although I did feel that the two performers sometimes lost their characters in these moments, and it would've been nicer for the audience if they had stayed Andrew and Lisa even while moving furniture.
Aside from that minor detail, I thoroughly enjoyed both performances I managed to see of TWO TO TANGO. It's a warm and authentic story, with two characters I feel like I know that have been brought to life by two talented performers. It's also quite an important statement on society in South Africa right now, with lots of questions being asked by and of those who have the privilege of being able to leave if they wanted to.
Photo credit: Beatrice Glenister