Love, Loss and What I Wore is a production made up of 28 short stories (by Nora Ephron of When Harry Met Sally and Julie & Julia fame) all stirred by an item of clothing. Five women give different narratives – sometimes in soliloquy, sometimes together, with the various threads lightly held together by Gingy (Rika Sennet) who starts the ball rolling by examining her entire life via the key items in her wardrobe from her first school uniform to her present day attire. The other four women take on a multitude of roles ranging from a spoiled Jewish princess to a blue collar woman visiting her lover in prison.
Along with the dialects the American play is infused with South African flavour with cultural references as well as mentions of local cities and shops. The cast moves between distinct South African dialects, rendering the need for costume changes unnecessary. The action and scenery on stage is minimal, and the success or failure of the show hangs on the ability of the actors to change characters convincingly and to keep the pace moving forward. These five ladies achieve it with ease. Not only do they transform their accents, pitch and tone at the drop of a pin, but their whole body language too. And the pace is varied, with loud, boisterous humour juxtaposed with tender, solitary revelations.
Kate Normington, as always, shines out with a natural mastery of comic timing and wilful self-deprecation. Sharon Spiegel Wagner seemed destined to play the Jewish princess but slips just as easily into the role of poor white trash, or the sweet Mummy’s girl planning her wedding.
With an amazing sensitivity and without breaking the mood in the room the production also touches on the darker subjects of breast cancer and rape. Christel Mutombu gives a stunning performance throughout, but particularly shines as a vulnerable girl who, though changed forever by the cruel actions of a stranger, still loves her boots. This might sound ditsy on paper, but Mutombu uses the character’s love for her boots to make her enduring.
The pain of wearing heels and bras, the horror of handbags, the joy of wearing black… all of these are delved into, rummaged through and sighed over. Squeals of laughter erupt from various parts of the theatre as women recognise themselves, while the various men in the audience that I saw were clearly amused and bemused in equal measure.
Love, Loss and what I Wore is light without being frivolous. It’s a fun night out with the girls that will still turn in your head after the white wine hangover of the next morning has worn off. Alternatively, drag along your significant other to make him appreciate the value of a woman’s wardrobe.
By Jana van Heerden
Love, Loss and What I Wore runs at the Theatre on the Bay from 15 June – 2 July 2011.