Not a cut above the rest…

Maeshni Naicker as the title character in Salon Sue, a new stage comedy written and directed by Durban’s Clinton Marius.

STAGE: Salon Sue – iZulu Theatre, Sibaya Casino

HAVING written and also directed three fine scripts in a row – the award-winning B!#ch Stole My Doek and the acclaimed White Christmas and Sweetie Darling – it comes as a disappointment that Durban playwright Clinton Marius fails to reach those levels of excellence with his latest play, a comedy.

That said, Salon Sue, created as a vehicle for the talents of the animated and charismatic Maeshni Naicker – star of the Keeping Up with the Kandasamys movie – is not without its moments, has Naicker doing a good enough job and, with some editing, has good potential.

It is not Naicker’s first project with Marius. She appeared on his popular radio serial, Lollipop Lane, which aired on Lotus FM for four years, and was also in his plays Ladies of Lollipop Lane and Mystic Twisters, both also presented at the large, kraal-shaped iZulu Theatre at Sibaya Casino, near Umhlanga.

The set for Salon Sue – including a chequered floor, a couch, coffee table, hairdryers, a reception area and two walls – is a little lost on the large iZulu Theatre stage and the play would work much better in a more intimate setting.

Salon owner Sue is played with zeal and spark by Naicker, creating a fun character in gaudy-print shirt, lavender wig and outsized bangles and necklace.

We first meet her when she is a little harassed while opening her salon one Tuesday – Pensioner Specials Day – to answer a ringing phone. Then, throughout the day, in between dealing with clients and trying to cope with a power failure, Sue constantly argues on the phone with her crying receptionist, Felicity, who has lost her keys and is battling to make it to work.

Sue’s clients include an elderly regular with thinning hair and a habit of nodding off, and also a woman who wants a hairstyle like Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. Then there is a young Forrest Gump lookalike who may or may not be gay, is straight out of matric and keen to apply to be a hairdressing apprentice; a sales rep called Dot who delights Sue with her regular samples; and Zelda, a salon worker specialising in good tea, window cleaning and helping clients with weaves.

All well and good, but Sue is the only character on stage – all others are invisible to the audience. Sue chats to and discusses these invisible folk while she goes gung-ho with hairspray, snips away with her scissors, applies dye, drapes smocks and positions hairdryers.

It gets a bit dull, to be frank, and ideally this play would be so much better with a bigger cast – or, at least, having Naicker become Sue’s clients rather than simply having Sue talk to and discuss them.

The script, sad to say, becomes plodding and episodic, sometimes corny and with too many repetitive gags… the sleepy “aunty” , the Camilla reference and Sue continually calling the Gump-lookalike Mitchell instead of Michael are milked too often.

Also, I got so infuriated with the predictability and annoyance of that ever-ringing phone that it took a lot to stop me from storming on to the stage and hurling it against the fairytight-strewn backdrop.

I also found the play’s ending somewhat contrived, an effort to add poignancy that comes across as an awkward afterthought.

Salon Sue  is also too long and would greatly benefit from pruning.  Snip off  at least 10 minutes – a few less phone call interruptions? – and dispense with the unnecessary interval, and it would be a tighter, brighter production.

The production has final performances at 8pm today (Saturday, July 29) and 3pm tomorrow (Sunday, July 30).

Tickets cost R120 throughout and are available from Computicket, Shoprite/Checkers or the casino box-office. Book your seat by calling 0861 915 8000.

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