The Old Man and the Sea Review

The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway on stage at the Fugard!

Brought to you by the creatives at Contagious Theatre, Nick Warren’s imaginative adaptation on the Hemingway classic left us nostalgic for childhood holidays spent reading this timeless tale.

As our readers will know, TheatreZA is now firmly established in the Mother City and it was with great excitement that we re-visited the Fugard. The busy lobby was largely attributable to the Friday crowd for Kinky Boots (which, in case you missed it, has been extended to 2 February 2020 #christmaspressies), but a small group made our way through that gorgeous old building to the Fugard’s Studio Theatre.

This small group filled the intimate theatre and were interactively invited to become the ‘tourists’ to a Cuban fishing village. Here we were to be told the classic tale of struggle, perseverance and friendship – The Old Man and the Sea. The three actors who make up the seven characters were onstage immediately – first as Pedro (James Cairns), Raul (Jacques de Silva) and Juan-Carlos (Taryn Bennet) – brought to life by Jenine Collocott’s magnificent masks.

The production continued to delight as the actors portrayed different roles, depicted by changing masks and wonderful accents. The scene took on different landscapes through the effective use of a rotating platform transitioning us from dockside, to the warmth of a Cuban tavern, and even to the Old Man battling the world out at sea. The transitions were made masterfully smooth through the use of the Sue Grealy’s music and the delightful voice of Jacques de Silva. The simple use of props allowed the imaginations of audience to run wild.

Cairn’s Santiago wonderfully conveyed the anguish and grit of Hemingway’s iconic Old Man, while Bennet’s imaginative and enthusiastic Manolin beautifully highlighted the contrast between the two characters. Despite the distinctions, the connection between the older and younger man showed the power of a trusting and loving mentor/mentee relationship.

Jacques de Silva and Taryn Bennet in The Old Man and the Sea

Bennet managed the transition from this serious character to the comic Juan-Carlos and sultry Carmen in a way that added to the overall feeling that this performance balanced light-hearted with serious. De Silva’s Raul and Diego also added a brash sense of comic relief while Cairn was marvelous as the older statesman in both his roles – Santiago and Pedro – bringing a calm to the otherwise fairly excitable stage. The marlin, Santiago’s prized catch after 84 days without a fish, is beautifully displayed by a paper mâché prop while the remainder of the fishy characters of the book are left to the audience’s imagination.

The hour-long production whizzes by so squeeze it into your calendar before the 24 August close if, for nothing else, than the chance to fall back into your childhood.

The Old Man and the Sea is on at the Fugard Studio Theatre until August 24. Tickets are available at the box office or the Fugard Theatre website.

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