The award-winning Dangled was one of the 2016 Fringe festival’s most compelling and anticipated works. The play took on extra resonance as part of the Fringe festival, where discussions surrounding mental dysfunctions reached fever pitch with various productions. Based on Nikolai Gogol’s famous short story ‘Diary of a Madman’, Dangled is a contemporary tale of sexual rage underpinned with madness and desire, and shivering with a distinct nihilism. It is the hopeless tale of a lowly, belittled penpusher, whose unrequited love for a beautiful woman drives him insane.
As the madman, Rob van Vuuren delivers a performance swathed in an exhilarating energy. His elastic expressions and twitchy nuances betray a rising panic, and this ensuing self-consciousness concludes with a lucid mental conundrum. And as the protagonist spirals out of control, a volatile tornado of madness is magnified. With a bravado befitting a duelling swordsman, van Vuuren takes charge as he paces and directs the show from within. But while his madman may be the saddest sack to ever grace a stage, writer Louis Viljoen has drawn an affecting, yet dehumanised portrait of a man with no hope whatsoever of fitting into society.
Not much production value is needed with such a virtuosic-driven monologue. The simple set design for the Fringe production consisted of a brightly lit setting, with a single chair and table. Here, van Vuuren’s seasoned stand-up comic confidence placed the emphasis more on dialogue and nuance than surrounding. Dangled’s freeform staging was just as singular. Cartoonish and careering, it repeatedly fractured its frame with exemplary meta-theatrics on the sparse landscape.
Dense, unremitting, and sharply funny at times, Dangled could be translated on a number of levels: a confrontational social commentary, a biting dark comedy or a lurid portrait of a flawed and all too human being. Forget ‘adaptation’, ExploSIV Production’s take was a tumultuous re-creation of Gogol’s famous story which struck a chord with most of the audience members. It’s no wonder that the production secured the esteemed Audience Award at the Fringe Fresh Awards.
Benn Van Der Westhuizen
Dangled ran as part of the Cape Town Fringe Festival from 28 September to 8 October 2016 at the Cape Town City Hall.