12 November 2012

South Africa: A Special Thanks to Guests From Afar

I don't know about you, but a lot of my friends are getting engaged and married these days. I guess that means I'm in for a lot of weddings over the next several years. But even attending a classmate's Jewish/Catholic wedding in Colombia two years ago couldn't prepare me for the crazy experiences in Special Thanks To Guests From Afar.

Written by Nicholas Spagnoletti and directed by Matthew Wild, it tells the story of two South African friends who are reunited at a wedding overseas. Luke (Nicholas Dallas) is a gay economics professor at UCT, while Thabisa (Chi Mhende) is a Zürich-based banking executive. They haven't seen each other in a while and quickly start catching up. Alas, this includes some heated discussions about Luke's refusal to get over an old break-up and Thabisa's decision to move overseas to live her own life.

Complicating matters even more than the hole in the wall that can't decide if it's a window or a door, is the groom's brother Markus (Gideon Lombard), a physiotherapist for Doctors Without Borders who Luke and Thabisa are both attracted to. Can their friendship withstand a weekend of flirting, fighting, and way too much booze?

Relationships between people who don't fit in

Spagnoletti, co-owner of Alexander Bar and writer of the award-winning London Road, was inspired by a number of weddings he's attending recently and had been mulling over the idea for a few years. "I wanted to write a play about the adults who get seated at the children's table," he said.

More than that, he wanted to write about the relationships between people who don't fit in. I guess that's why Markus was an asexual guy with a tickling fetish. (Say what?) While pushing the boundaries of believability makes it harder to relate to him compared to Thabisa and Luke, weirdness seems to be the point. "That's what I was getting at," Spagnoletti explains. "Finding the freakishness of the normal world, or what we think is normal, and finding what's familiar and recognisable in the freaks." All three people are simply trying to make sense of the lives and maybe find a little happiness too.

In the end, what I liked most about Special Thanks To Guests From Afar was the exploration of friendship, especially how it takes strain over long distances and after a long time apart. It's always good to be reminded that the strong connections can and will survive, no matter what comes in the way. At times like these, we could all use some of those.

Special Thanks To Guests From Afar, the last of four plays in the Spring Drama Season, is showing at the Artscape Theatre, Cape Town until 24 November. Tickets are available from Computicket. Special discounts are available for students and groups of 10 or more. Additional offers are available via Artscape box office on +27 (0)21 421 7695.

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