Review: Just Business

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Just Business‘I don’t do murder, I do business’ comes the unsparing and blunt salute to reality. Much like the receding hairline of a certain business mogul, the line between right and wrong has become frighteningly evasive.  And no high-priced toupee can solve the problem.

The one hour play Just Business is the latest production from the pen of esteemed playwright, Mike van Graan. Formerly known as Hostile Takeover it was staged by the Market Theatre as part of the main programme on the National Arts Festival back in 2006. It has since been reworked and updated and took the spotlight once more in Grahamstown this year when it received a Standard Bank Ovation Award for achieving excellence on the 2012 National Arts Fringe.

Directed by the respected Fred Abrahamse, Just Business is a dark, satirical comedy with an edge, a story seething with shady post-apartheid hypocrisy. It cannot necessarily be said what the ultimate theme is, more so what it represents. There is a difference.

Andre Jacobs assumes the role of Hannes van Wyk, an emotive strip club owner who refuses to adhere to the BEE standards and becomes the victim of a hostile takeover by the hired hitman Mr. September (Kurt Egelhof). Despite Mr September’s job, Egelhof imbues him with an underlying warmth, a humanity that exists but is sidelined by circumstances.

Mbulelo Grootboom gives a stirring interaction in the antagonist role of Mabuso, a character representative of a society that has lost its intrinsic battle of conscience and fallen into a shallow grave of materialism.

With a minimalistic and deliberately – if somewhat unnervingly – light hearted set by Marcel Meyer, distraction is cut short so that maximum attention can be given to the subtleties of each character. Similarly, Fred Abrahamse’s lighting refines the emotion of particular moments and although the script palled in places, a general message was achieved with a professional flourish.

String together three actors of differing cultures, quick flowing dialogue and a constant rotation of the victim-offender mentality, and you have an immediate recipe for a play that leaves little time to mull over the ideas suggested but instead tells it like it is.  Just business.

Christina Scholtz

Just Business runs until 28 July at the Artscape Arena. An age restriction of 15 is advised.

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