DIANE DE BEER
Pictures: Philip Kuhn
VISITING MR GREEN
DIRECTOR: Alan Swerdlow
CAST: Michael Richard, Roberto Pombo
VENUE: Auto and General Theatre on The Square, Sandton
UNTIL: June 10
It’s a play that feels as familiar as comfy slippers in chilly times. There’s a classic old-time feel about it and depending on your view of the world and how you prefer your theatrical ventures, this will determine whether you are challenged or simply entertained.
Ross (Pombo) is visiting the elderly Mr Green (Richard) because he has been ordered by the court to do so, once a week, for the next six months after being found guilty of reckless driving and almost injuring the old man. He, however believes Mr Green walked recklessly in front of his car. “I might have been going too fast,” he concedes.
But that’s basically how the story goes, which then allows the two men to battle their demons as they get to know one another. It’s uncomfortable stuff because they inhabit such different planets but that’s also what adds fuel to this fire.
From Richard’s first shuffle into the room, it’s clear he has fashioned his character in a way that inhabits not only the way he speaks but also moves – even eats. His is a crotchety old-timer who has no one who allows him any soft landings, so he simply keeps bulldozing ahead. Loneliness is how he operates even though Ross doesn’t believe that’s good enough.
Ross on the other hand is also struggling with his lifestyle but that’s not self-imposed even though many – Mr Green included – would want him to believe it is exactly that.
It’s the acting that makes this one stand on its toes from Richard who seems to know this old codger well as he fires a series of salvos in every conversation. He’s at odds with any conversation with Pombo’s Ross who must work diligently at paying his dues for his bad behaviour on the road.
And the young Ross swings from exhaustion to exuberance as he is struck sideways by Mr Green’s thoughtless swipes and then sees an opportunity to atone for his own thoughtlessness. Pombo adds zip to his youthful portrayal of a troubled young man who is trying to kickstart and navigate a now stagnant life.
It is the battles that are fought in families – often senseless – that adds grit to Visiting Mr Green and we all recognise that these are still too prevalent today. Even in a world with the Guptas almost upending a country or Trump causing mayhem in Jerusalem, mothers are still driving their daughters dilly when they gain too much weight or a family crisis ensues when someone dares to slip a toe out of the closet.
The play didn’t get me excited even if the performances did. It is good to see an old hand like Richard tackle a character he has done in different guises before while Pombo, who is more a physical theatre guy, can play as straight as he needs to play to serve the play. Personally, I would have liked to see the issues moved into the new millennium with the current world as the backdrop. If it’s all still playing out as they are in this play, that in itself would say something.
One request would have been to cut the interval. The play isn’t that long, and it would have benefitted and exacerbated the monotony of the visits and they way they grind each other down, without the break.