We went to the opening night of Venom last night, at The Intimate Theatre. It’s Juliet Jenkin‘s new play; a two hander performed by Juliet herself and Nicholas Dallas and directed by Michael Inglis. A group of young theatre makers, they have formed a little, independent theatre company, The DOT Conspiracy, which in itself is exciting and inspiring. One of their really good ideas is getting audience to pay R10 for being at the opening. I think we should all do that, especially for small, un-sponsored work. R10 is so easy, and if everyone does it, at least the company can pay for their programmes or opening night wine, or whatever.
I had mixed feelings about the play when we left the theatre last night, and those have gotten stronger, but in a haunting kind of way, which is good.
Both Juliet, as sometime thief, ex-lawyer and self-mutilator, and Nicholas as traumatised, paranoid, hysterical victim of violence, were excellent. Their performances were natural, layered and complicated and they worked well together with energy and sensitivity. Obviously the director shaped and formed and held the piece and that was really good.
The themes of the play, particularly the mechanics of fear and the guilt of racism are clever, interesting and bravely handled, making it South African, relevant and deeply recognisable. So what niggles me is that I think the script itself is not entirely ready. The exposition of the relationship between the characters and and how it works is set up very clearly from the beginning and it becomes a little repetitive, which is fine, only they are not really changed by each other until the very last moment. I wanted to know how they came to be where they were rather than why they were there.
This is brave, challenging and interesting work. The performances and direction are good. It just has a few boring bits that need something and I think more laughing would help, even if it is noisy, uncomfortable and nervous.