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Caveman meets Cavewoman

Production information

Two to Tango by Mike van Graan
Directed by Ruth Levin
With Bo Petersen and Bruce Young

Now showing at: Theatre on the Square, Sandton
Until 20 May, after which time it transfers to The Baxter, Cape Town.

Mike van Graan has experimented with a wide range of styles in his last four plays. In contrast with some of his more provocative previous plays Ė which raised issues concerning governance, ethics and identity Ė here is a piece which is light and easily digestible.

Two to Tango consists of a series of comic vignettes from suburban married life. The dialogue is typical of scenes no doubt being played out in a thousand kitchens across the country, and the audience I was part of immediately took to the situations and conflicts being portrayed. Admittedly, it does cater towards middle- to upper-class white audiences, but since these are the audiences expected by the venues where it will be playing, this seems entirely appropriate. In a sense this is a type of community theatre in that it's written for an identifiable slice of the market segment and will appeal to a specific community of people able to identify with the characters being presented.

The comedy is fuelled by the daily dance of give and take between the two parties of a modern marriage. The story line hardly matters and there are no real twists or fundamental thematic changes. There is also little progression, and hardly any suspense. And yet, within these sometimes banal conversations lies a perfect representation of the everyday small rituals of resistance and conquest which typify the roles of a married couple. Some of the scenarios made me think of RD Laing's wonderful play Knots, in which the male/female contestations and resolutions are explored and exposed. Two to Tango is a bright, upbeat Scenes from a Marriage with (mostly) sunny skies, instead of the dark Nordic angst-ridden overtones of the latter.

Out of the four plays he's seen staged during the last two years, this is a new approach for Van Graan and it might also be seen as his most conventional play. Bo Petersen is brilliant with her fine-tuned expressions and silences. Bruce Young might have given it a bit more energy on occasion to balance Petersen's intensity; but on the other hand, the lackadaisical, laid-back Capetonian character he plays might have required his more measured pace.

The play is crammed with local references, from Woolies to Ina Paarman to the Stormers. It covers terrain familiar to contemporary consumer concerns, such as sex, crime, children and attempts to form tentative relations with other races. And, as already mentioned, the audience with whom I watched the play understood every line. Actually, I got the dates mixed up and instead of seeing the official opening night, I found myself in a crowd of well-fed banking employees happy to collect a freebie from their company. And they loved it. Amidst remarks overheard like "Kyk daai nippels" and "O gaats, hier gaan hy weer" they had a great time. They weren't there to uncover the new South African psyche, they were there to laugh. I must admit that I also found myself laughing aloud a lot more than I'm generally prone to doing. And why not? Two to Tango may not be as "substantial" as Tshepang or Relativity, but it makes for an entertaining and highly enjoyable night out and the play achieves exactly what it sets out to do.

LitNet: 3 Mei 2006

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boontoe / to the top

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