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Review: Langarm

The History and Sounds of Cape Town create this Perfect Mosaic of Musical Theatre.

by Louw Mulder

The wonder, awe and art of theatre is very special to the team at Stage and screen. When I visited the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town this past December, the level of specialness was magnified in such a way, that the theatre outing in its whole became one of my Top 10 theatrical experiences in the Inestimable Sentiment category.

It all happened on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in the Mother City, with clear skies outside, and inside, a full house, eagerly awaiting the matinee performance of David Kramer’s Langarm. Revisiting past productions like Kat and the King and Blood Brothers and understanding to what extent the talents of Kramer can go, I was really excited to see this production!.

I got my selfie with the man himself, and was super amped when I found that he was seated right next to me. I grew up with Die Manne van die Royal Hotel, so having the opportunity to write a review on a production with its creator, writer and director sitting right next to me, I felt extremely honoured.  You then witness this purely magical show, which is set in Cape Town’s District Six.  You really enjoy this production with all its elements, and with that sheer glow of theatre magic fresh in your mind, you leave the theatre, also situated in Cape Town’s District Six, with a heartfelt feeling for our country and all the hardships it has had to endure. With the majestic, powerful view of Table Mountain welcoming you to The Mother City… This day was special.

Langarm advertised itself as “He was White, She was not. They Broke the Law to Dance.”, but for those like me who initially thought of this production as just another racial plot of how bad it was in the Old South Africa, go see this show, and then be just as surprised as I was.  Kramer cleverly used facts of that era and events which were evidently close to his memories of that time, and combined it with a love story, to grab you from curtain lift, to curtain call.

I took my chance when we all took our seats after the interval, to introduce myself to Mr Kramer, to get some background on his story. “The story is fictional, but all the adjoining events in the Musical that supports the main story, is based on facts of that time” Kramer told me: “I have done a lot of research to find events suitable for the story I had in mind.”  What is more interesting, is that Kramer admitted that when seeing the show, audiences will realise the love story between Angeline and Jeff, is in fact secondary to the more serious and hidden message he wanted to bring through to the audience.  In the second half , I gradually noticed what he meant.

When thinking beyond the special memories of Langarm, the first thing I remember about this production, is the Music.  With a newly composed score, with its own songs, combined with well-known hits that added homage to the storyline, was phenomenally arranged by the maestro Charl-Johan Lingenfelder.  Maybe it’s just this Joburger from Gauteng, with a soft spot for the Mother City and all her different cultures, to find the holistic feel of Langarm’s music to be a true reflection of Cape Town, District Six, and the nostalgic sounds of the Kaapse Klopse.

The swing band, making music with numerous variations in the harmonies between Trumpet and Saxophone, was another special element, of which I will go as far to be the first one to buy the soundtrack one day. Not just is it the music that added colour to the Idea of going to the theatre in Cape Town, the voices of the artists on stage, were adding more identity to the reminiscence on stage.  I have to highlight the voices of Rushney Ferguson, who plays Angelina, the notable versatility of Elton Landrew as Eddie, and the powerhouse Kim Louis, in the role of Kim, whose story keeps you in suspense till the end.

The last time I visited the Fugard, in my review on their production of Funny Girl, I wrote about how impressed I was with the performance of Cameron Botha.  Needless to say, his name was one of the reasons that made me choose Langarm as one of the productions to see whilst in Cape Town.  Botha plays Jeff in this musical, who has to live through many emotions.  In my opinion, it takes a specific skill of a stage actor to portray so many emotions as distinctively as what Botha did on the day.  I would say that he had an engrossing presence of an experienced actor, and in my opinion I will go as far as to say that I can see South Africa’s next Jonathan Roxmouth in this artist.

Besides a wonderful cast, the enthralling time-capsule that is the music, and the hint of something serious in the plot, audiences can also look forward to see a very clever set-design, brought to stage by Saul Radomsky. The revolving stage makes scene changes effortless, with Widaad Albertus’ design of the costumes, completing the picture.

“I just love working with the Fugard Theatre, and bringing my shows here. Their professionalism, dedication to the art form and passion for the theatre, is what makes it so wonderful to work with them” Kramer told me when I got a disappointing negative answer when I asked if Langarm might be coming to Johannesburg.  I guess we up here in the Gauteng province can’t have it all, and the Kramer Fugard collaboration, must be reason enough, to visit the Mother City at least once a year.  The next one is Kramer’s adaptation Happy New Year that will start in the Fugard’s Studio theatre, on 19 February 2019.

Produced by the Fugard Theatre, Langarm is not just a musical.  It is a variety show of so many elements ranging from the good old Cape Town Sounds, to the joy of an unfolding love story, to even elements of an historic flash-back.  Make sure to catch David Kramer’s latest Musical offering on the stage of the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town’s District Six, now extended to 3 March 2019.  Tickets are available from www.thefugard.com.

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