“Dad,” grumbles James Cuningham disapprovingly, “is like a big, fat, heavy, wet raincoat… Oh look, it’s raining, better put my ‘Dad’ on.” Sunday Morning, a tale of unexpected fatherhood, ends up being about a lot more than becoming a dad.
Opening nights at Kalk Bay Theatre infuse guests with an easy intimacy no doubt attributable to the delicious spread of hors d‘oeuvres and a particularly palatable Splattered Toad, the instigator of some quaint merriment.
“Nick and the set are unfortunately detained in Beaufort West, due to the snow,” mentions the owner of Kalk Bay Theatre, Simon Cooper, blithely, as the audience settles down wine in hand. What we were about to witness would not only be an improv performance from a National Arts Festival proclaimed ‘Master’, but also the debut performance of James Cuningham at the Kalk Bay Theatre.
A makeshift set is provided by two light boxes with a semi-circle of strewn newspaper clippings, as James Cuningham’s comical miming eludes to a lover’s quarrel between abrupt flashes of darkness. Slowly the story of a man is revealed, stranded at a fork in the road of life, his relationship and professional plans uprooted by an unwanted conception.
“When did ‘whatever’ become such a doos of a word?” Cuningham blurts out, mid ‘fight’. An unbridled jibe at the familiar frustrations of daily conversation kicks up raucous laughter from the cosy theatre audience.
Blunt and honest scriptwriting will do that for a simple story. Was it the dramatised swipes at unheard iTunes that had us captivated and chuckling in recognition? Or the more pithy penetrations into our own darkest fears? “Do you ever get that feeling that life hasn’t started yet?” Cuningham enquired into the darkness of the auditorium… unerringly tuning our emotions into the heartfelt plight of his character.
Even if the stage had been littered with props, none could have added more dimension to the actor’s ability to run in slow motion through a dodgy neighbourhood. No camera technology, no light trickery, just the manipulations of this extraordinarily talented performer, utterly immersed in a role that had us transfixed with awe.
Scripts of productions such as Sunday Morning have a wonderful tendency to invigorate one’s diction, alive as they are with descriptions for something as mundane as baby clutter as “an endless flow of plastic effluvium”. More a dance than a sentence, really.
The 50 minute marriage of language, acting and direction reveals a touching, anecdotal story which serves – as all good theatre should – to channel all the viewer’s pent-up emotions and revelations so that everyone leaves feeling refreshed and cleansed and surprisingly high.
We all have the same fears and doubts swimming behind our smiles. Everybody has their big, fat, heavy, raincoat to bear. But when you’re sharing the weight, it’s not really that heavy… and often it’s far more fun.
Sunday Morning, written by Nick Warren, directed by Jenine Collocott and performed by James Cuningham runs at Kalk Bay Theatre until 11 August 2012.