Simon saw this in G’town and absolutely loved it. I went last night, remembering that I will probably get a chance to see most of what was on at the festival right here in Cape Town, if I haven’t seen it already! It is on at The Baxter, @The Flipside, where the main stage is turned around, with the audience on stage too, creating another small (and freezing) venue. The Girl in the Yellow Dress is written by Craig Higginson, directed by Malcolm Purkey, and is a collaboration between the Market Theatre in Johannesburg and two UK theatres. It is a two-hander performed by British actress Marianne Oldham and South African Nat Ramabulana.
Seeing this play was the first in a bit of a theatre drought for me and I was really desperate to enjoy it. My first impressions of the set were, ok, we’re going to watch a proper play now, and that’s exactly what it was; a five scene play, with blackouts denoting the passing of time chronologically, in a very realistic style. The story is about a young, beautiful girl in Paris who develops a relationship with a young black man to whom she is teaching English. It’s got a bit of sex, psychology, identity, racial issues, and it’s all tied up with the bits and pieces of English grammar; all that ‘past participle’ stuff.
There is no doubt that the two performers are super talented and gorgeous. The story is very clear as the two get to know each other better; with not much left to the imagination. I guess the whole point is that we know that they are lying from the outset but this makes the revealing of the information less of a surprise and more of a ‘get on with it’. I found it all rather pedestrian.
I loved the blackout music and slides. I loved some of the witty lines although most of the “English’ stuff was too dense and sailed over this audience’s head.
I was irritated with the costume and set changes, particularly the last one, where in the dark the plastic to cover the furniture was so loud! I found the flowers trite and predictable. I hated that Pierre had to perform his dramatic stuff standing on bits of torn paper as if it wasn’t there. Truth is, I was bored; my worst thing to be in a play.
When it was done I tried to remember a play that I had liked and I thought immediately of …miskien. Also about a relationship, lies, revealing the truth and the complications it brings, I found the execution of it so much more satisfying. Style, lights, set, direction, music, performances, nuances, the extended moments, all worked better for me to create a heightened sense of theatre. The Girl in the Yellow Dress had moments of drama school cheese about it; that feeling of a director/lecturer getting his students to ‘reveal’, to ‘open up’, to ‘go to that place’.
It comes with massive credentials. It was a hit of G’town and it is off to the Edinburgh fest, England and then Stockholm. But if this is one of the best of the fest, I guess I wouldn’t have had too fantastic a time.