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Review: The Frontiersmen (Cape Town Fringe)

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Nicholas-Pauling-and-Mark-Elderkin-in-The-FrontiersmenStarring Nicholas Pauling and Mark Elderkin, and directed by Greg Karvellas, The Frontiersmen is a venomously poetic two hander following the plots and pains of two South African property developers who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

Delving deeply into the darker side of human nature – specifically greed – the play is, on the surface, little more than two men arguing in a room, having committed an unspeakable deed which they both agreed needed to be done. But beneath the surface lies so much more.

The characters gradually develop as they talk to one another, maintaining an uneasy alliance that is wonderfully undercut by their need to compete. The content of their conversation is consistently brilliant, making use of gratuitously violent imagery by way of exceeding vulgarity that is so eloquently put together as to ensure that jaws are dropping in horror while simultaneously quivering in appreciation.

The depth to which these sinister human emotions are explored is not to be underrated. It proves engrossingly interesting but, as if that weren’t enough, the play still manages to piece together a grim, plausible, sobering perspective of real estate business in South Africa.

And in spite of all of this there is the relief of humour throughout the play – sometimes sick and depraved, sometimes perfectly innocent, but always very funny.

The man responsible for the superb script is Louis Viljoen, and it is delivered with skill by Pauling and Elderkin, who bring life to likeable, but truly terrifying characters. The actors bring poise and precision and colour to every word in this text-heavy script while exploiting the intimacy of the small theatre to create characters with disturbing subtlety.

The plot develops beautifully, creating a considerable amount of suspense culminating in… well, let’s not give anything away – suffice to say this is a play definitely worth going to see to find out more.

Rory Appleton

The Frontiersmen runs at the Alexander Upstairs theatre as part of the Cape Town Fringe Festival until 4 October 2014.

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