Victory in red heels

THIS is for me. Talia Kodesh in ‘Actress’ at The Studio Theatre, Montecasino, until 8 October 2023. Photograph courtesy Facebook.

HOW MANY BEAUTIFUL dreams have you left by the wayside as life has taken over and pushed you in directions that made you weep? How many times have you stood back and said: ‘I don’t want to be part of someone else’s project’? Bruce Dennill and Talia Kodesh have pooled their considerable talents to engage with this difficult conundrum in life and have created a 10 out of 10 production, in Actress, which performs at the Studio Theatre, Montecasino, until 8 October.

Mooted as a ‘pocket musical’, this one-woman tale told with experience, dance, music and articulation is quite simply a must-see. Running loosely along the lines of Evita from within and without, it tells the story of dreams that get averted in complicated ways and have to be recalibrated. And these dreams are yours and mine as much as they are Kodesh’s – who we haven’t seen on stage for many years – and Dennill’s – who you might know better as an arts critic.

And there are many magic ingredients in this work which tells a story that could be drooping with platitudes but isn’t, because it’s witty and tight, coherent and focused. There are succinct metaphors and symbols here that lend the work profundity rather than crassness. Kodesh’s character confronts the coldness of an arts community in a country which is not home. She confronts the horrors of her dream role coupled with news of dramatic changes in her own life. At the same time. She confronts the terror of juggling everything, from babies to an unmissable new gig, to family and cultural responsibilities, that happen on the same day.

The work will release your own laughter and tears of recognition. Bring tissues (don’t wear mascara). It’s is as much about finding yourself in the sham and dram of being in this world, as it is about acknowledging the things that make you tingle within, be they a pair of red stilettos, a virgin paintbrush or an unwritten novel.

But the 10-out-of-10-ness of this show is about all the different elements of it coming together. Perfectly. Dennill’s music is fresh and articulate. It holds the moods in this work with acuity and edge. The sound design in this small theatre is top class. Kodesh can stretch her chords all the way, without you, in the audience, feeling the resonance of noise too big for the venue rattling under your shoes or in your teeth. And the set is bold and simple and clear. There’s even a ‘Random Props Guy’ by way of Nathan Ro, who delivers everything from babies to a kiss, as he moves the boxes on wheels that constitutes the universe on this small stage, and dons bee wings and a unicorn’s headgear as part of a play for little children.

Don’t miss this show. It feels low-key without all the bells and whistles of a large budget production and doesn’t shout strobes and an orchestra, or a massive cast and international kudos. It’s simply musical theatre, polished to the hilt and human but stripped of shlock. It’s as good as it gets.

  • Actress: The role of a lifetime is directed by Daniel Geddes. Written by Bruce Dennill and Talia Kodesh and performed by Talia Kodesh and Nathan Ro, it is produced by Collett Dawson and features creative input by Bruce Dennill (music and lyrics), Sarah Roberts (set and costumes), Denis Hutchinson (lighting), Henry Underhay (sound), Bruce Dennill and Paul Elliott (musical direction), Paul Elliott (musical arrangements, engineering and production) and is stage managed by Zara Gaffney. It is at the Studio Theatre, Montecasino complex in Fourways until 8 October.

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