If you were lucky enough to find yourself out on the streets of the mother city on the night of 10May you may have noticed the majestic moon, just four nights from its perigee and looking colossal. It wasn’t a full moon, in fact a quarter of it was hidden on this clear evening as if the moon itself would not steal the spotlight to something more auspicious.
For the night saw the triumphant return of Kat and the Kings, the play by revered South African heavyweights David Kramer and the late Taliep Peterson, to the story’s place of birth, District Six… and what better stage than the legendary Fugard Theatre to host this musical gem, this offspring of the creative Cape.
Kat and the Kings is set in District 6 of Cape Town during the late 1950s, a time scarred forever as the beginning of apartheid and the end of this once multiracial and vibrant slum.
Inspired by the memories of one Salie Daniels, the narrative follows the tale of self-proclaimed ladies’ man and ‘best singer and dancer’ Kat Diamond (Dean Balie) on his journey to fame with his vocalist group, Ballie (Carlo Daniels), Magoo (Zak Toerien), Bingo (Grant Peres) and Lucy (Amy Trout).
Without exception each member of this cast embodies his or her relative characters with wit and precision. Dean is energetic and explosive; Carlo, Grant and Zak provide a sense of quirky humour throughout and Amy commands any straight man’s full interest (I don’t think I’m the only one with a thing for those skirts). Each actor – including Kat senior, the narrator – has a voice that demands attention. And the six piece live band (led by director Don-veno Prins) provides an added beauty to the performance as a whole.
Presented by Eric Abraham the production’s moving set, designed by Saul Radomsky – FNB Vita award winner, is quite simply stunning with a jaw-dropping centrepiece. The lighting and costumes are everything one could expect for such a deserving piece of theatre.
Even if you were lucky enough to see the original, this new production offers enough small additions to make it fresh without losing the nostalgia of the American ‘boo-wop’-styled but truly Capetonian musical.
Dedicated to Taliep Peterson’s memory, Kat and the Kings is a play that every South African should see in their lifetime… and every tourist too for that matter. This award winning musical is a piece of pure brilliance beating in the heart of the rich artistic history and creativity of this city.
by Faheem abz Abrahams
Kat and the Kings runs at the Fugard Theatre in District Six until 30 June 2012.