By Dr Tiffany Higgo. Teacher. Head of Subject. Short. Blonde. PhD. Boom.
Reviewing student theatre is always a tricky one – one wants to be fair and critical, yet not kill the dreams of young dramatists and inexperienced performers before their careers have even begun! Last weekend, the Wits University Drama Department hosted a variety of work staged by their 4th year directing students. On the Amphitheatre stage, Nuclear – written and directed by Saul Kemack – took full flight.
Nuclear addressed the dark and intense emotional journey of parents dealing with the loss of a child, with the ultimate end in their grieving process culminating in finding a ‘replica’ boy to fill the void left by this devastating loss. Whilst Kemack illustrates some sophisticated nuances in his writing, the script felt a little verbose at times and moving forward, a significant edit of it is probably necessary to fine-tune the nuances and move beyond the sitcom-like one liners that detracted from the poignancy into a script that takes the audience on a dark, painful and disturbing journey of the grieving family. Moments of beauty in both the writing and the acting (such as the bath scene) were seen in the play and these are the sorts of moments that should be expanded and replicated throughout the text.
Nuclear allowed young performers a great platform to play with language and create intricate and detailed characters. Clearly, much conversation had been had in relation to character relationships and dynamics, culminating in polished performances all-round. Whilst a talented cast, the standout performance must be that of Damien Wantenaar who started out as somewhat contrived, but moved into illustrating a poignant and mature performance, with the particular highlight being his emotional monologue delivery towards the end of the piece. Megan Miller and Themba Dlamini were thoroughly engaging on stage and will definitely be performers to watch, while the chemistry between Wantenaar and Miller worked beautifully on stage.
Whilst this was not a perfect show and quite definitely a work in progress, the play unquestionably illustrates a talented bunch – undeniably kids to watch out for in the future!