Where Fortune smiles (and weeps)

KING of the Oasis, Glenn Fortune (Kevin Smith). Photograph by Zaheer Banderker.

WELCOME TO THE Oasis, where bad feelings lie in everyone’s heart, and money is too tight to mention. No whores, no drugs, no gambling, this club is a ‘rite of passage’ jazz venue for many young people, and it values its squeaky clean reputation, but everyone, it seems, owes a lot to everyone else and bad blood runs deep. This is how Skemerdans, South Africa’s brand new Cape Flats series opens. It debuts on Showmax from 28 April.

Weighing in at just 25 minutes, the episode – the first of 13 – is packed with intrigue and drama that niftily and enticingly paint portraits of the era, the history and the discomfort of modern times. It’s a family business, started by small time mogul Glenn Fortune (Kevin Smith), in the shell of an old style movie house, and one which has several staff on its books, from the security guy to the guys behind the bar, the barmaid and the glittery dressed singer on the sidelines, who feels upstaged. Family members mix with loyal friends. They’re stereotypes, of course, but there’s the thrilling the promise of a story in every interstice of these characters.

From the outset the cast is so richly immersed in diva dynamics and broken dreams, you know there won’t be a dull moment. And, armed with a prodigal daughter, who doesn’t waste time, and swords of Damocles hanging over many heads, the denouement happens right at the instant when you expect the credits to start rolling, presenting a shocking cliff hanger which will have you reaching for episode 2 with alacrity.

Skemerdans offers interesting promise as a well made and carefully orchestrated series: it is a neo-noir drama which is contextualised in the deep and oft dangerous heart of the Western Cape – where the lingo is specific to the neighbourhood and everyone has the kind of street savvy that keeps them alert. Earmark this one.

Skemerdans is written by Amy Jephta and directed by Amy Jephta and Ephraim Gordon and  and features a cast headed by Ceagan Arendse, Brendon Daniels, Vinette Ebrahim, Mbulelo Grootboom, Alistair Izobell, Ann Juries-May, Ilse Klink, Carmen Maarman, Bongo Mbutuma, Danny Ross, Sanda Shandu, Kevin Smith, Kim Syster, Trudy van Rooy and Carl Weber. Produced by Scharl van der Merwe and Zandré Coetzer, it features creative input by Chris Lotz (cinematography) and Markus van Schalkwyk (editing). Episode 1 of the series debuts on Showmax on 28 April 2021.

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