After a very late start to A Circus Side Show last night I had to really hurry to The Intimate Theatre to make it in time for the first staged reading in this year’s competition, Nicholas Spagnoletti’s two-hander London Road.
The PANSA playwriting competition is a pretty cool initiative and I’ve been involved before as an actor, director and I even entered as a writer this time around. What happens is writers submit their plays, a few get chosen by a panel of judges to be staged as play readings and then the best one is chosen. This all happens regionally, and then the best of the best is chosen nationally. I missed the selection but was given a special mention. Good but not good enough?
I had mixed feelings about the staging of London Road even though I completely totally love the script and I think it would make an amazing production. It is set in Sea Point’s London Road and the story tracks the totally different lives of, and unexpected friendship between, a Nigerian drug dealer Stella, played brilliantly by Faniswa Yiza and her old and lonely Jewish neighbour Rosa, played less successfully by Yvonne Banning. Lara Bye directed, and although she really got to grips with the humanity and pathos of the piece, she was less successful at the humour and irony of it. This meant that there were parts that were a bit long. I also was not convinced by Lara’s choice to keep the actors seated throughout. I know it is a staged ‘reading’ but we need to see the piece ‘translated’ onto the stage to see its potential. Although this choice gave us the opportunity of getting to know the characters very well, they struggled to look at each other, to really see each other. And I struggled to imagine the action.
Faniswa Yiza is something else. She sat in her Nigerian dress and looked HUge, even though she is this tiny little thing. Her accent, style, and confidence were spot on. Yvonne Banning was not a great choice for me as Rosa. There just wasn’t anything Jewish about her interpretation, which meant that all the attendant humour that comes with the Jewishisms were lost. I must totally confess to having had a strong desire to play the part although I am hopelessly not old enough. Jacqui Singer or Molly Seftel could have been more successful choices for me.
None the less, I remain committed to the play itself and I hope Nicholas wins. I think he writes absolutely brilliantly.