THREE YOUNG SOUTH African men with fabulous repartee and a bag of psychological issues are what you will encounter in this brand new gem of local theatre. The Kings of the World is a play effectively about nothing: crumbling dreams, cloudy suppositions, silly beliefs and thin promises. Constructed in a Beckettian framework, the piece never loses its beat, the rhythm of the give and take between the cast members is infectious and strong and the backdrop which laughs darkly at self-indulgent wokeness, security issues and the masturbatory notion of ‘finding oneself’ in a world where the truth doesn’t count any more, is rich.
Dogs bark. Lights flash. A young man (William Harding) stands rigid, clutching a small table lamp in the darkened space of a curtainless window. And thus unfolds a deliciously rickety plot, held together with fantastic use of the theatre space, an annoying friend (Kaz McFadden) with hilarious anger issues and a roommate (Chris Djuma) with a smile that should have a self-standing credit on the programme.
His name is Jefferson. He’s a slightly younger student with a mandated, passing, urgent quest to engage Dante’s Inferno. He’s bursting with enthusiasm and with his shorty pajamas and socks, is all teeth and eyeballs for the whims of the (slightly) older guys. He’s a fantastic character, beautifully performed, who brings a veneer of mystery which adds to the work’s dark hilarity.
The three work together with brave and abject harmony that doesn’t allow your eye to digress or your smile to waver. There are moments of glares that speak louder than text. There are other moments of facial expression which can take Harding from being piteously self-pitying to fiercely self-believing with the flick of an eyebrow. And the unrestrained nature of the give-and-take which sometimes finds characters talking over one another is completely delightful.
Like the set design in Victor Gordon’s work Brothers, there is a very successful reflection of inside and outside in this work, as well as that of the skanky digs of an unemployed Masters student. It’s a delight from beginning to end, but rather than laugh-a-minute shallow stuff, has an internal roving eye and a sophisticated energy that comments with astuteness on the ludicrous miens of our computer-obsessed, health-infused world.
In this industry of sham promises and broken dreams, the existence of new works, fresh ideas and young voices onstage is very important. All the better if they are of sound quality. When you exit The Kings of the World, you leave with a grin on your face and hope in your heart.
- The Kings of the World is written and directed by William Harding, mentored by Robert Whitehead. It features design by Noluthando Lobese mentoring Phumelele Dlamini (set and costumes), Hlomohang Motheo mentoring Promise Khuzwayo (lighting) and Mandisa Vilakazi mentoring Kegaogetswe Rakopa (sound). Stage-managed by Mokokoba Makgopa mentoring Bohlokoa Matlabe, it is performed by Chris Djuma, William Harding and Kaz McFadden at the Mannie Manim Theatre, Market Theatre complex in Newtown, Johannesburg, until February 16. Call 011 832 1641.