07 November 2013
Unnerving. That’s the only way to describe walking into a dimply lit black box theatre to realize that the actor you have come to watch…is watching you. He’s acting, yes, but the whole premise of “The View” could not have been more clearly stated as we sat down to the crackle and pop of white noise in the background. In the tiny theatre, I couldn’t have been more than ten feet from what we were soon to learn was the main character, but it could not be made clearer that actor Gideon Lombard was in a different time, a different place, or maybe even a different dimension. Lombard’s acting obviously deserves some of the credit – it’s no easy feat to be able to look the audience in the eye as they take their seats and discuss your imminent and current performance – but I believe that he could not have done such impressive work without the brilliant designs of Penelope Youngleson.
According to the programs handed out by friendly greeters at the door, Youngleson has a Bachelor’s of the Arts in Cabaret and Scriptwriting from the University of Stellenbosch, an Honours degree in Directing, and a Masters of the Arts in Theatre Making from the University of Cape Town. Being the well-educated woman that she is, I’m sure Youngleson realized what a massive undertaking “The View” would be as a designer. She had to create not one, not two, but thirteen different worlds with what I am sure was a meager budget. And yet, she rose to not only meet the design challenge, but to surpass it with ease. The concept of using a black box theatre to emphasize language and create an alienating effect seamlessly inspired a bracing and startling design that left the audience members with many questions and no tangible answers.
The brilliance of the design began with the preliminary decision to use a black box theatre. As theatre in Cape Town has to be self-sufficient due to lack of governmental subsidies, I don’t mean...
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