Scrapbook: Guitar aces, Popcorn

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 Scrapbook memories… every now and then I dip into scrapbooks that piled up during my 24 years as Arts Editor of The Mercury newspaper in Durban and, just for fun, dig out reviews and interviews from yesteryear. Today we go back nearly 17 years, to May and July 2000.

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BY BILLY SUTER

Scrapbook memories today hark back to 2000, the article above being my review of a music spectacle that became one of Durban’s most loved locally produced stage successes – a show that had a successful revival seven years ago.

It is Themi Venturas’s The Guitar That Rocked the World which, staged both originally and for its 2010 revival at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, featured a 17-member cast.

They saluted the Fender Stratocaster guitar through a story about a teenager seeking fame while learning the history of the greats associated with this guitar brand.

My review of the original music, song and dance extravaganza, which appeared in The Mercury on July 5, 2000, heralded the arrival on the music scene of Durban’s Rowan Stuart.

The then-16-year-old filled the lead role in the show – which also starred radio and stage veteran Frank Graham, singer Shanthan and guitarists Barry Thomson and Andy Turrell – and in the following years Rowan has blossomed into one of the most interesting and talented singer-guitarist-composers to emerge from KwaZulu-Natal.

Interesting to note the ticket prices back then – R49 each for week-day and Sunday performances, and R55 on Fridays and Saturdays.

The clipping below appeared in the Mercury on May 16, 2000, and is my review of KickstArt’s very first production – Ben Elton’s sly comic-thriller Popcorn, directed, designed, produced by Greg King, and also featuring him.

Others in the seven-member cast were Phillipa Savage, Tim Wells, Catherine Farren, Michael Gritten, Heather Barclay-Whiffin and Belinda Henwood.

Interestingly, Des and Dawn Lindberg’s FNB Vita Award-winning production of the same play was to have been seen in October 1999 in Durban, at the Playhouse Drama, but the booking was scrapped due to some dispute with the arts body’s then-head, Johann Zietsman, over the play possibly having an adverse affect on the Playhouse’s sponsored Christmas season. Or something like that.

In 2003, Greg King was joined by Steven Stead as executive director of KickstArt, and together they have worked to develop the company’s output and status.

They successfully ran Greyville’s intimate Kwasuka Theatre for three years, and then moved on to collaborations with larger theatres such as the Playhouse, Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town, and the Liberty Theatre on the Square in Johannesburg.

They have also formed a very strong relationship with celebrated South African impresario, Pieter Toerien, who has co-produced several of KickstArt’s recent successes on tour in Johannesburg at his Montecasino Theatre, and in Cape Town at his Theatre on the Bay.

KickstArt presented a popular revival of Popcorn, with some of the original cast members, in 2006.

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