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Myer Taub takes admirable stab at “mainstream”

SHOW: Interrupting Henry
DIRECTOR: Matthew Wild
CAST: Vaneshran Arumugam, Theresa Iglich, Ivan Abrahams, Julia Anastasopoulos, Travis Snyders
VENUE: The Artscape Arena until November 20
REVIEW: Peter Tromp

I always get excited when an artist known to be as cerebral as Myer Taub tries to be more “accessible”. Some folks might consider this a form of selling out, of pandering to the unwashed, ADD-addled, ‘Twilight’-obsessed masses, but to my mind it can show a determined effort on the part of an artist to connect with people outside of their codified circles.

  Vaneshran Arumugam and Julia Anastasopoulos in ‘Interrupting Henry’Vaneshran Arumugam and Julia Anastasopoulos in ‘Interrupting Henry’

Preaching to the converted is no fun at all and in the past, Taub’s dense, post-modernist epics did exactly that - delighting mostly the upper tertiary level elite. Although it has been pointed out to me on several occasions that serious theatre can no longer be considered mainstream, I doubt anyone unaccustomed to the stronger stuff (things devoid of songbooks) would feel lost here. ‘Interrupting Henry’ is so full of pleasurable moments, without sacrificing its powerful, underlying intelligence that it should leave most theatregoers, even relative novices, quite fulfilled.

Although I have reservations about some of Taub’s thematic elements or certain plot points (the whole element of the importance of youthful subversion and rebellion in the face of stifling conformity felt a little forced towards the end, and the love story is just plain hackneyed), a lot of ‘Interrupting Henry’ works beautifully.

It’s also very funny and tender. It’s really in the final execution that the play falls short.
At times, it felt forcibly populist, as if director Matthew Wild didn’t quite trust the material to speak for itself and felt he had to add more chocolate for mass consumption (to recycle an old John Lennon quote). There are moments when the production just tries too hard to be charming.

The set is something to behold and rank among designer Angela Nemov’s most ingenious creations. It looks like some kind of downscaled U2 stage design, in a good way, but it doesn’t come across as the most practical thing at most times.
It doesn’t appear as if enough thought had been given to the actual playing field, and for most of the show, the performers looked cramped and appeared to have difficulty manoeuvring about.

There is also a noticeable difference in the quality of the performances. Vaneshran Arumugam is a likeable enough presence, but his performance is also highly inconsistent, littered with twitchy, odd little moments that detract from the whole.
Julia Anastasopoulos doesn’t seem to feature much during awards seasons, but she is one of our most consistent young actresses, very seldom putting a foot wrong.

She is called upon here to play a mousy, Afrikaans teacher with an accent to boot, but she doesn’t do what many English actors do when playing Afrikaans characters, which is to subtly, or not so subtly poke fun at their characters. She is dignified throughout, turning in yet another unfussy yet subtly expansive performance.

Ivan Abrahams, as he always is, is just a supreme delight. He is almost like the show’s master of ceremonies, but somehow managed to steal all of his scenes instead of chewing them.

* Book at Computicket.



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