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The Ice Cream Boys at Jermyn Street Theatre | Review

The Ice Cream Boys by Gail Louw - Jack Klaff (Ronnie Kasrils), Bu Kunene (Thandi Dube) and Andrew Francis (Jacob Zuma) at Jermyn Street Theatre. Credit - Robert Workman.
The Ice Cream Boys by Gail Louw – Jack Klaff (Ronnie Kasrils), Bu Kunene (Thandi Dube) and Andrew Francis (Jacob Zuma) at Jermyn Street Theatre. Credit – Robert Workman.

It is always a pleasurable experience visiting Jermyn Street Theatre, if only to see how the designer has used the pocket sized acting area. In this case, Cecilia Trono has produced a very striking and highly appropriate black and brilliant white tiled set, representing an area between private patients’ rooms in a South African expensive private hospital, imaginatively lit by Tim Mascall.

The 75 minute play by Gail Louw imagines a meeting between 77 year old former president Jacob Zuma, and his long term communist adversary and one time Head of Intelligence, 80 year old Ronnie Kasrils. Neither is enjoying the best of health and they spend the whole play reminiscing about the past, when once they were allies rather than adversaries.

Andrew Francis is the embodiment of Zuma, if perhaps a tad too young and healthy. He has clearly done his research and has the voice and mannerisms to perfection.

Likewise Jack Klaff. He does not act Kasrils, he IS Kasrils, being totally convincing, especially vocally, with just a touch of accent and subtle use of gesture, facial expression and mannerisms.

The third actor in this three-handed play is asked not only to play a nurse, but also appear as memories when the two men look into their pasts. These include a Christian Missionary, Member of Parliament and Nelson Mandela. Thandi Dube seems miscast, as not only does she find it difficult to project her voice at a similar level to the others on stage, she is also unable to create roles for the brief cameos she is asked to create.

This may be in part the fault of the writing. The two male protagonists are far too friendly with each other: rarely does any tension build between them, and this is certainly not the fault of either of the actors nor the director (Vik Sivalingam); in fact they do their best and more with the script. It is strange that there is no denouement – the play just ends, which is almost certainly the playwright’s intention, but it does leave the audience feeling dissatisfied, especially given the brief running time!

However, for two examples of two actors getting the very most they can from a weak script, and for a superb set, Jermyn Street Theatre is worth a visit during the next two weeks.

3 Star Review

Review by John Groves

There are some enemies you’d wait a lifetime to see face-to-face. Charismatic, corrupt and dangerous, Jacob Zuma was until recently President of South Africa. But before Zuma came to power, Ronnie Kasrils masterminded the intelligence services. Now at last they’re alone together. When you’ve been betrayed, it’s never too late to settle old scores.

Andrew Frances takes the role of Jacob Zuma, Jack Klaff plays Ronnie Kasrils and Bu Kunene plays Thandi Dube and other characters. The production is directed by Vik Sivalingam.

Directed by Vik Sivalingam
Set and costume design by Cecilia Trono
Lighting design by Tim Mascall
Sound design by Nicola Chang
Associate Producer Jeffrey T Apter

Presents The Memories Season

Wednesday 9th October to Saturday 2nd November


  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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