Review: Lady Luck

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Tucked away in the corner of UCT’s Drama campus on the edge of town, The Intimate Theatre is true to its name. Small but perfectly formed, and bursting with character, it is the perfect location for The Sugardaddy Theatre Company’s Lady Luck, a play whose seedy world extends outside the theatre, enveloping the audience before the show even begins. Its squalid clubs and bars are created by the mingling audience members drinking whisky on the house, effectively turning them into patrons of the club where we first meet Lisa.

Marlisa Doubell’s Lady Luck follows the turbulent relationship of Lisa (Sabine Palfi), with her fiancé Dean (Bjorn Steinbach) with whom she is meant to elope. But Dean doesn’t show up and instead Lisa meets Nic (Aidan Whytock) a young Greek man both deeply suave and highly suspicious.

Directed by the award-winning Yvonne Copley, the play introduces us to “the seedy underbelly of Cape Town”, opening with Lisa’s last dance at the club where she works. It is unclear why this dance sequence was shot beforehand and projected onto a screen. It would have been a lot more effective had it been live or – since it adds little to the story or character – if it was cut entirely. The rough setting is better established through the introduction of Dean and Nic, as they stumble onto stage after Nic pulls Dean out of a fight. The persistently dim lighting and the roughness of the characters throughout serve as a constant reminder of the grim settings and circumstances.

The dour atmosphere is lifted at times with lighter moments between Nic and Lisa in the coffee shop, although the atmosphere is still laced with suspicion that Nic is not someone to be trusted. Through Nic’s shady character and Lisa and Dean’s tumultuous relationship, a nervous tension pervades the story and the actors keep this at an admirable pitch, drawing the audience into the lives of the characters.

But this carefully pitched tension is let down by the constant scene changes as the action moves incessantly between the street, the coffee shop and Nic’s new bar. This relentless back and forth gives one the feeling that Lady Luck is meant for television rather than for stage. In fact the story and atmosphere are reminiscent of South African TV dramas and very unlike what we find on our stages today. Nevertheless, the action and drama created by the actors is gripping and will, with a little more work, make for an entertaining piece of stage (or TV) drama.

Claudia Hauter

 Lady Luck runs from 15 to 25 May 2013 at The Intimate Theatre, Hiddingh Campus

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