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Review of PLAYLAND at Mumford Theatre Cambridge

Playland cast
Playland – Ben Cutler & David Carr. Photo by Pamela Raith Photography

This play was thought-provoking, entertaining and kept the audience engrossed. If you discount Barking Barney the listless and underwhelmed Tanoy announcer, this was a two-man piece, which required great concentration from the cast. Gideon Le Roux, played by Ben Cutter, is a distressed white South African with troubling memories of his time in the Army. He played the part with tremendous energy and delivered his lines at great speed without losing clarity. He brought humour and pathos to the part without becoming maudlin and was a surprisingly sympathetic character. Martinus Zoeloe, played by David Carr, contrasted very well. His delivery and presence was very still and deliberate and he too won the sympathy of the audience. They worked very well together to give the audience an excellent evening’s entertainment.

The play takes place in a funfair called Playland on New Year’s Eve 1989. Martinus is the night watchman and general handyman, and Gideon is a visitor, dressed up in his finest and looking for a good time. Gideon strikes up a conversation with Martinus over the beauty of the sunset. The two men are very different but gradually the realisation dawns that they both have a darkness in their past. The first act is very lively and the banter between them merely edgy when, near the interval, Gideon calls Martinus, “Boy”. After the interval, they reveal to each other the personal horrors they have both faced and the acting from both during these scenes was superb and intensely gripping. The relationship that develops by the end is very moving.

The play was staged on a simple, effective set representing the behind the scenes areas of an amusement park. Tannoy speakers and some fairy lights, with some pallets and a blanket representing Martinus’s quarters and some security fencing gave us the feeling we were there. The concrete base of the speakers gave another level and variety to the set and gave Gideon a podium. Stage Right was primarily Gideon’s and was lively and busy. Stage left belonged to Martinus and contrasted a calmer delivery. Costume was very simple and unobtrusive, yet it added to the atmosphere and contrast between the two characters. Lighting too was subtle and in keeping with the piece. The sound was good with background songs from the fair drifting across occasionally. The music playing as Gideon related his horror was very moving and added to the sombreness of the moment.

Overall, I was moved and uplifted by this play. It gives hope that people from opposing sides can find common ground and can empathise with each other and move forward. This was not a tale of terrible white oppression or black uprising, but a tale of two men who helped each other at an unbelievably horrific time in their lives by talking about their problems. A lesson for all of the world. The playwright, Athol Fugard kept us brilliantly enthralled on a wet night in February. Well done

5 Star Rating

Review by Delia Tickner

New Perspectives presents Playland by Athol Fugard
Director: Jack McNamara, Designer: Hyemi Shin, Lighting Designer: Azusa Ono
Sound Designer: Adam McCready
National tour: 13 February – 8 March 2015
Press Night Monday 16th february 2015
Cambridge, CB1 1PT 7.30pm

East Midlands leading rural touring theatre company, New Perspectives, presents the UK Tour of Playland by Athol Fugard. The regional premiere of the show, Playland is one of Fugard’s later plays and his most emotionally difficult to write, exploring the possibilities for reconciliation after apartheid in South Africa.

Provoking debate around intolerance and political extremism in the run up to the 2015 General Election, the show will open at Derby Theatre on Friday 13 February, before touring to a mix of rural and theatre venues.

New Perspectives Artistic Director, Jack McNamara comments: “It feels like an important time to tour this particular play, with the rise of UKIP and the upcoming election. As a rarely seen work by one of the most important playwrights in world history, an urban environment might have been a more expected route for it. However, I passionately believe this is a subject that needs to be brought into the heart of the country, to open up discussions about where fear and intolerance can lead us.

Playland is not a soapbox show; its picture of society is multifaceted. Yet the world it comes from is very real and frighteningly recent. New Year’s Eve. An amusement park. Two strangers meet in the dead of night. In the heart of rural South Africa, travelling amusement park, ‘Playland’, has opened its gates. With the country in the grips of a brutal apartheid regime, the park promises an evening of thrills and laughter. Martinus, a black South African, is the amusement park’s night-watchman. Gideon, a white Afrikaner and ex-serviceman, has come along for a good night out. When they find themselves face to face, their encounter is charged with history and danger.

Athol Fugard is one of the world’s most performed living playwrights, and a fearless chronicler of South Africa and its troubled history. Playland is one of his most personal and rarely performed plays; gripping, comic and deeply moving.
For more information about New Perspectives visit: www.newperspectives.co.uk

National tour dates:
Fri 13 February 2015 – Derby Theatre – 7.30pm
Sat 14 February 2015 – Derby Theatre – 7.30pm
Mon 16 February 2015 – Mumford Theatre, Anglia Ruskin University Cambridge – 7.30pm
Wed 25 February 2015 – Lincoln Drill Hall – 7.30pm
Thu 26 February 2015 – Thoresby Riding Hall Nottinghamshire – 7.30pm
Fri 27 February 2015 – Bonnington Theatre Nottingham – 7.30pm
Sat 28 February 2015 – Broadbent Theatre near Lincoln – 7.30pm
Wed 04 March 2015 – Stahl Theatre Oundle – 7.30pm
Thu 05 March 2015 – University of Worcester – 7.30pm
Fri 06 March 2015 – Malvern Cube – 7.30pm
Sat 07 March 2015 – Pattingham Village Hall – 7.30pm
Sun 08 March 2015 – Florence Nightingale Memorial Hall near Matlock- 7.30pm

Tuesday 17th February 2015


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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