London Roadby Katie de Klee / 15.07.2013
Loneliness can make you vulnerable, make you harden, become unapproachable, bitter. But it can also make you open hearted, ready for a friend no matter how different their life from yours.
London Road is a play about two ladies who start up an unusual friendship in a block of flats in Sea Point. Nicholas Spagnoletti’s script is animated and natural and the two actresses on the simple stage are delightfully engaging.
Rosa, played by the excellent Robyn Scott, is an old Jewish widow whose children have emigrated to far away countries. One day she makes friends with her upstairs neighbour Stella after someone tries to break into her flat.
Stella, (Ntombi Makhutshi) a Nigerian lady much younger than Rosa and an illegal immigrant with a suspicious imports/exports business, is also alone in the city. Apart from her clients, who call her at anytime of the day or night, she doesn’t seem to have anyone to talk to while her cheating husband is back in Lagos.
Rosa’s character is the more dominant of the two, her voice louder, and her pokes more forceful, therefore Scott’s stage presence seems to be the more memorable. But Makhutshi has a wonderful grace on the stage, lending the right amount of toughness to Stella, an independent outsider.
The scene changes flow as smoothly as the dialogue, never interrupting the action as time flows past, and though the friendship grows stronger, Rosa grows weaker and her breath more ragged. The humour prevents too much sentimentality though, even in the saddest of moments.
After the show, while the audience chatted at the bar, Robyn Scott stubbed out a cigarette on the Alexander Bar balcony and looked towards the sky, wondering if the chill in the air was a sign of coming rain. Her long silver-blonde hair was now free of the wig she’d worn as Rosa, and her face clean of the painted age. For three years she has inhabited the skin of this old Jewish wench, winning awards in Grahamstown and exhausting all of the South African theatre venues. In a week or so they fly to Edinburgh to perform in the festival there. She laughed when asked if she was bored of the character.
‘If you’re the type of person who gets bored you shouldn’t act. Sometimes we find new ways of understand the play, but not often anymore. It’s gotten pretty set over the years. Stage is dangerous, that’s why I don’t do film. On the stage you have one shot with each audience, just one.’
Her cigarette stub had a lipstick kiss and it did then begin to rain.
*London Road is on at The Alexander Bar on Strand Street until Wednesday 24th July.
** Images © Aaron Scheiner