High Steaksby Libby Allen / 17.01.2010
The Musho! Festival has become a vital, but typically little-known, launch pad for many projects and relationships within Durban’s theatre community. Most of the Durban-born pieces which have gone on to tour on the national theatre circuit have been created for Musho! and while the funding has been minimal, it has been vital – as have the spaces provided – for new work to be tested, mentored and given an audience. So when this year’s festival loses its funding, save one miraculous sponsor in Pentravel and space donated by Themi Venturas at the Catalina theatre, things become a little worrying. The inevitable complaints of recession and audience apathy stand, but, bla bla, those of you actually reading a theatre review are probably the few supporting new South African theatre work and so rage, rage, whaddya gonna do.
Headlining Musho! 2010 is Gaetan Schmidt’s Rumpsteak, directed by Rob Van Vuuren; a one-man telling of the dinner shift in a French restaurant. The performance is a feat; twelve characters play out in a tiny space, with no set, no literal dialogue, only Schmidt’s physical creation of character and environment, peppered with French phrasing, predominantly dishes from the restaurant’s menu. Partnering Schmidt’s performance is James Webb’s soundscape, which plays alongside the performer to become a second character onstage. There is no massive plot, no high drama, but Schmidt’s creation of moments and characters, told with such crafted mime and timing that the audience is drawn right in to the piece. A few unfortunate technical glitches intruded on the world of the show so that at times it jarred, but Schmidt is so endearing and expertly rehearsed that these were pretty easily forgiven. He is a beautiful clown, balancing the ridiculous with understatement, so that you feel you are inside an old Madeleine cartoon or meeting the characters from a Giles comic. A great piece; hoping this signals a small, but quality festival for Durban.