Scrapbook: Nuns… and Cat

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 21 years, to March 1996.


Scrapbook memories today hark back to two of my reviews of very different stage works – one, a fine drama, Agnes of God, presented at Durban’s Playhouse Loft; the other a supper theatre salute to memories of Motown, titled Motown Magic and staged at the long-defunct The Supper Stage in Durban North.

The clipping above, printed in The Mercury on March 26, 1996, is my review of James Pilemeier’s Agnes and God, which ran in Durban a year after the film version starring Jane Fonda, Anne Bancroft and Meg Tilly. The stage production here, directed by Murray McGibbon, teamed (from left in the picture above) Charmaine Weir-Smith,Theresa Iglich and Shelagh Holliday).

Agnes of God was originally staged in the US in the late 1970s. It was first performed at Durban’s Playhouse in the 1980s, when the cast included Lena Farugia (of TV’s Westgate) and Sandra Duncan.

My review above refers to the 1996 production as being of note for an imposing set by Barbara  Mangrum, who originally designed it in 1986 for McGibbon’s production at South Illinois University in the US, where he staged Agnes of God as part of his master’s thesis. McGibbon is now based in America.

Ticket prices back then at the Playhouse Loft were R20 and R35, depending on the day, and there was also a “housewives special” at 10.30am on Wednesdays which included a cup of tea or coffee in the R20 admission price. Ah.

The review below, which appeared in the Mercury on March 8, 1996, was of a show directed by Michael Evans – and is of particular note for having introduced Durban to now-ubiquitous singer-pianist Cat Simoni. I’d forgotten I’d first seen her perform that long ago.

Cat’s versatility as a singer-pianist has since taken her abroad, and now she is constantly performing all over South Africa. She is soon to be seen at Durban’s Rhumbelow Theatre in a tribute to Elton John, having already saluted the likes of Barbra Streisand and assorted other divas at that and many other venues.

Motown Magic marked Simoni’s debut at The Supper Stage, where she performed on keyboards, sax and vocals alongside Wayne Sanders, Greg Fockens, Theodore Aaron, Clifford Kast, Ian Jefferys, Jane Sander and Greg Leisegang.

It was a pretty routine party-showband entertainment, my review notes, “but one slick and pleasant enough, and which keeps the customers satisfied and shouting for more”.

It was presented on a stage decorated with a city skyline backdrop strung with polystyrene-and-glitter stars. Ah.

I wrote of Simoni: “Although a tad awkward and self-conscious when she takes centre-stage on vocals, Catherine has a strong and likeable voice, put to fine use in Endless Love (a duet with Wayne) and a gutsy solo, Don’t Leave Me This Way“.


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