Theatre on the Square, Sandton is presenting a joyous celebration of brilliant theatre with two of our star actors. DIANE DE BEER reviews:
HANSARD BY SIMON WOODS
PRESENTED BY TROUPE THEATRE COMPANY IN ASSOCIATION WITH DAPHNE KUHN
VENUE: THEATRE ON THE SQUARE, SANDTON
CAST; FIONA RAMSAY AND GRAHAM HOPKINS
DIRECTOR: ROBERT WHITEHEAD
DATES: UNTIL AUGUST 28 with two matinee shows added to the evening shows
on the 21st and 28th August at 3pm
PICTURES: Philip Kuhn
What a thrill to witness powerhouse acting duo Fiona Ramsay and Gerald Hopkins on stage again ̶ . together.
From the moment they step on stage, you’re immediately in their cottage in the Cotswolds in the English countryside with a carefully manicured lawn destroyed by English perhaps French foxes just beyond our gaze.
It’s huge fun as the script draws you immediately into the action and you’d better have your wits about you if you want to catch all the references. We might be in the middle of Margaret Thatcher madness, but you’re never without the backdrop of not only British politics as we’re experiencing it now, but also the American disaster unfolding on the other side of the pond.
The text is the first play by Simon Woods, who started as an actor but became disillusioned and turned to writing. It was his own same-sex marriage and the arrival of two children that had him meditating on the state of the world he is sending them into.
He hangs Hansard, as the title suggests, on legislation – very specifically Section 28 of 1988, the local government act that prohibited the teaching “in any mainland school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”
Now, where have we heard that before? Do I hear Florida, 2022? The play might be set in the restrictive Margaret Thatcher era and the act might have been scrapped in 2003 after much protesting, but to name just a few, think Ron DeSantis and his “Don’t Say Gay” laws aimed at Florida schools and Clarence Thomas’s ramblings following the scrapping of Roe vs Wade about same-sex marriage and contraception that should be reviewed by the US Supreme Court.
But let the fun begin, as this married couple is the perfect combo: Robin Hesketh is a proudly right-wing Tory politician with abominable attitudes on identity politics while his left-wing wife Diana is enthusiastically critical of Tory politics (especially out of touch white male dominated rules) and extremely unhappy with the governing party’s shameful performance in most areas.
It is an explosive torrent of toxic yet hysterically hilarious verbiage that flies between them. It is immediately clear that this is their battleground and has been in the making for decades. It is reminiscent of the sparring in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, now celebrating its 60th anniversary, but here we’re dealing in the politics of morals and mores, which is very much what dominates the rapidly changing political scenario we are experiencing in Britain and the US today.
It’s delicious from every angle ̶ the pithy and speed-driven script, Whitehead’s concise direction and the glorious acting gymnastics delivered with artistic aplomb by these two theatre aristocrats. With all three having grown up in the theatre together, there’s an understanding between them that serves the play magnificently.
With all of us deprived of live theatre for so long, seeing these two revelling in the text, the characters and the way they can play off one another, was just delightful. They know when to turn up the volume, to glance meaningfully or arch an eyebrow, to add to the sassiness of the text. And as they shamelessly speed through their lines, we tune in and become part of this political brawl, which touches all of our lives no matter where we live.
These aren’t easy times for theatre and producer Daphne Kuhn has a tough ask keeping the lights on without any funding. She loves sneaking in these brilliant plays that don’t always find their audience, but if you have a theatrical bone in your body, go and see this spectacular brilliance on stage.
From start to (almost) finish (would have liked a tougher finalé), it’s sheer pleasure and overwhelming joy to wallow in everything on that stage. I didn’t expect anything less from these two astonishing actors and yet, I was still caught off guard by their deliciously delicate performances and a story that might be scary but is a helluva rollercoaster ride!