MUSICAL THEATRE/CAPE TOWN: David Kramer’s Danger in the Dark, Baxter Theatre, until November 2, 2019.
Director: David Kramer
Book and lyrics: David Kramer – a reworking of the hit musical Poison, which Kramer and the late Taliep Petersen wrote in the 1990s
Music: Songs from the original production, by Taliep Petersen with additional songs by David Kramer
Musical director and new musical arrangements: Camillo Lombard
Assistant director: Grant van Ster
Choreography: Shaun Oelf and Grant van Ster
Set and lighting designer: Patrick Curtis
Sound designer: David Classen
Costume design: Widaad Albertus
Videographer: Kirsti Cummings
Band: Grandall Vlotman (conductor and keyboards), Shaun Francke (guitar), Jason Ward (drums and percussion), Yvan Potts (synthesizers) and Kurt Randall (bassist)
Ensemble: Alexis Petersen, Rushney Ferguson, Loukmaan Adams, Elton Landrew, Eldon van der Merwe, Tashreeq de Villiers, Edith Plaatjies, Chad Baai.
Chorus: Luke Buys, Loreto Cabrera, Lewellyn Afrika, Luke de Kock, Anzio September, Lubabalo Pupu, Rori York Bingham, Nadine Suliaman, Alex Rodkin, Chamonay Anthony, Mekaila Mathys, Crystal Finck, Gabriela Dirkse and Tanzley Jooste.
Danger in the Dark is a re-working of the hit musical Poison, which David Kramer and the late Taliep Petersen wrote in the 90s. Pamela (Alexis Petersen), a social worker who is writing a thesis on drug abuse, connects with Juanita (Rushney Ferguson), a friend from school who is hitched to an abusive drug lord (Loukmaan Adams).
I did not see Poison as it was staged before I came to live in Cape Town so I am unable to compare Poison to Danger in the Dark. The benefit is that I viewed Danger in the Dark it as a stand-alone production – without referencing it to its first incarnation.
Danger in the Dark is set in the Cape Flats in 1995 – as was Poison. Renaye Kramer explained: “The drugs were different to what they are now and David has stayed with that- hence the old cell phones and typewriter.” So, there is a sense of period that we are looking back on but it reverberates profoundly now. Substance abuse remains a huge issue in our neck of the woods – and globally. Now, we have new drugs but it is the same issues. Recently, we were in San Francisco and we were shocked at the level of substance abuse on the streets. People were shooting up on the streets and dealing openly. On a walk from Union Square (a hub of substance abusers and homelessness) we encountered a landscape that was terrifying – to walk through- with huddles of people (gangs?) eyeing each other and us as we walked (very fast – and purposefully!). Watching Danger in the Dark, set in Cape Town, immediately made me think of the streets of San Fran. So, it is Cape Town story but it is a universal story. David Kramer conjures that up vividly – our story but it pings off other stories.
Danger in the Dark is an epic scale musical – large cast, vivid imaging, lighting, full volume design-scape making use of the Baxter stage, stunning musical arrangements (bravo to Camillo Lombard for his arrangements) and knock-out dance sets. It is something of an overload to watch this story unfold. The narrative builds in the first half and hurtles into an explosive 2nd half. The direction by Kramer with assistance by Grant van Ster is impeccable – shifting seamlessly between scenes with superb lighting by Patrick Curtis to delineate space and context.
I was astounded by the dance – choreography by Grant van Ster and Shaun Oelf. They have brought in what I would term as art-house dance -into mainstream musical theatre. I would say that this is ground-breaking in a mainstream musical context: edgy and gritty. We see these hooded figures – menacing, stalking, writhing. I think that Kramer, van Ster and Oelf have taken chances in allowing the dance to almost become another character in this musical; conjuring up an alternative narrative which interfaces with the book and music.
The voices are breath-taking. The talent in this city is remarkable. The women in particular are spectacular with nuanced big voices filling the stage. I was blown away by Alexis Petersen, Rushney Ferguson and Edith Plaatjies – and the entire cast. The men are menacing (Loukmaan is a very scary oke; terrified me) but for me this production is owned by the female characters.
I love the way Kramer has drawn them as they navigate the landscape. It is the women who soldier on (they are warriors); supporting each other; literally dodging bullets. The mother urges her son to do the right thing and change course. The friend looks out for her friend. Women can be powerful agents as breakers of the cycle of substance/emotional/physical abuse and violence. This comes across profoundly in the book of this musical. I cannot compare how the women were imaged in Poison as I didn’t see that show. But in Danger in the Dark, they are the ones who are seeking the light in the danger in the dark- clutching onto glimmers of hope.
*Danger in the Dark is on in the Baxter Theatre until November 2, 2019; 7.30pm with Saturday matinees at 2pm. Note: the 7.30pm start time for evening shows.
Tickets: R120 – R195
Book at Webtickets or call 021 685 7880.