By Laurie Scarborough
The Stephan Fourie Theatre Company, a production company founded last year, has brought Rent to Cape Town audiences. Fourie launched last year with a brilliant double-bill production of Chekov’s The Proposal and The Bear, perhaps two lesser-known comedies by the playwright. After that excellent take-off of the company, I was excited when they announced their next project was rock musical, Rent.
The cast, all young recent graduates or current students, did their best to bring the tricky musical to life. However, as a sung-through musical, the cast really needed to be strong performers and singers, and I felt that many of them were very talented, but maybe not experienced enough to carry a lead role so early in their careers. Had there been a few more experienced performers, they could have nurtured the new-comers and helped grow their performances.
There were some technical issues with the sound that made it a little difficult to hear which was unfortunate. I know Fourie and the rest of production have worked very hard since press night to fix many other technical difficulties, with lighting, faulty sound equipment, and audio-visual difficulties. They do seem to have ironed out many of those issues, but more attention is still needed for the sound, as all exposition is sung so the mics really need to produce a clear sound.
I also felt that the stage was too small, which could have been remedied by a smaller set. The cast didn’t have much space to work with and I think this limited the choreography.
Despite some rocky moments, there were many more redeeming aspects to the production. Many of the performers were extremely talented, and the musical direction was excellent. The harmonies sent chills down my spine, and the cast all had superb voices. Namisa Mdlalose, Anzio September, and Arlin Bantam really stood out in this regard, with some spectacular solos from them. I think even the cast were in awe of Namisa’s stand-out performance in “Seasons of Love”.
Ultimately, I think the project was perhaps too ambitious for a first musical effort from Stephan Fourie Theatre Company. But I do applaud their effort; they have faced so many challenges with the production, and have done really well despite that.
I am also so grateful that there is a production company out there now that is willing to take a risk and do a musical like Rent, when musical theatre junkies like me are bombarded with family musicals and Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals year in and year out. It is exciting to get modern, gritty, and interesting musicals that have more substance to them.
I therefore look forward to their next offering and I know that they will grow as they learn from each production.
Rent is showing at the Artscape Arena until Sunday. Tickets are almost booked out, so if you want to catch the music, best book now.