STAGE: Knot Again! – Rhumbelow Theatre, Umbilo, Durban
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
THE fourth consecutive music revue created for the annual Hilton Arts Festival and followed by a run at Durban’s Rhumbelow Theatre, Knot Again! is another fun, feather-light and fast-flowing look at Las Vegas by three popular local singer-actors.
It’s a very entertaining, colourful mish-mash in which the amusing and close-harmonising Bryan Hiles, Darren King and Rowan Bartlett casually deliver random trivia about the gambling capital of the world and acts that have played there.
They also offer a mix of wisecracks, playful banter and songs that vary from classic standards to more recent tunes and some surprises. They perform solo, in duet and as a group, and each has a time to shine.
As with the earlier Tie a Knot in It, Tie Another Knot in It and last year’s Get Knotted, the stage is dressed with booze on two tables, hatstands containing wigs, hats and feathered headdresses, and an orange, female mannequin torso the men call Lola.
Productions at the Hilton festival are mostly designed to run for an hour or so without an interval, so the Durban runs of the Knot shows have, until now, featured an earlier show in the series as a second half for the Rhumbelow Theatre season, which requires an interval.
This year, however, the trio, assisted by their backing tracks operator, Clare Mortimer, have done something different. A laminated list of 33 songs is left on each table at the Rhumbelow Theatre and patrons are asked to choose their 10 favourites with a felt pen. Clare collects the lists at interval, determines the most popular choices, and the cast perform them in the second half. A fun idea.
Knot Again! opens with the stage in darkness for the opening lines of Proud Mary then, when the song heats up, the stage lights flash and the talented trio of vocalists is seen in tinsel-fringed skirts as they nudge and wink at Tina Turner before slowing the pace for a good rendition of Bette Midler’s The Rose.
In between a spread of broad humour, light banter, corny cracks, wig and hat changes and much corpsing (which, Knot series regulars are by now sure to be aware, is actually written into the script), the trio offers everything from Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darren to nods to Satchmo, Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond, Billy Joel and others.
There are many highlights, not least a lively rendition of Bing Crosby’s Swinging on a Star; the catchy country hick hoedown, Man of Constant Sorrow (the trio in black, tinselly beards); Bartlett in giant blonde wig and fake breasts for Dolly Parton’s Jolene; and an amusingly choreographed delivery of the quirky It’s Oh So Quiet, a hit for both Betty Hutton in 1951 and Bjork in 1995.
Also of note are the solo sections, where each performer gets serious – Hiles being a standout with Otis Redding’s Sitting on the Dock of the Bay, King performing New York State of Mind and Summer Time, and Bartlett offering Bobby McGee.
The second half, the night I was in, included a playful version of Manilow’s Copacabana, featuring those yellow feather headdresses and nodding to Durban trio The Glitter Girls; a memorable rendition of the slow version of Tears For Fears’ Mad World; and a jovial rendition of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline that got the crowd singing along. Also loved the harmonies and power in American Trilogy and Hallelujah.
Knot Again! has a performance at 2pm today (Sunday, September 22) and will have final performances at the Umbilo Rhumbelow Theatre at 8pm on Friday and Saturday (September 27 and 28) and 2pm next Sunday (September 29).
Tickets cost R150 each (R130 for pensioners) and can be booked at Computicket. Or phone Roland Stansell at 082 499 8636.