Review: Quirky, entertaining and insightful piece of theatre -Earworm by Natalie Fraser- new South African play

I was privileged to attend the opening Earworm, a new play by Natalie Fraser at Theatre Arts, in Observatory, Cape Town, November 10-12, 2021. The play was birthed during Fraser’s drama studies at UCT but because of the pandemic, there were delays in staging the play on the theatre circuit. The play pivots around a protagonist who cannot sleep as she battles a song stuck in her head (that malady is called ‘earworm’). In the night, all her anxieties are insecurities are heightened and just as she may nod of, the persistent buzz of a mosquito, jolts her awake into an uneasy state of limbo. The writing is sharp and acutely observed. The play is very funny. It is as one theatregoer, mused, an utterly charming play. I won’t plot spoil about the narrative and what occurs but this is a very relatable scenario. Many of us have battled with sleep issues, during these pandemic days. This play is not ABOUT lockdown but it resonates and taps into sleep angst that has become amplified up in the pandemic- what we do when we cannot sleep – checking WhatsApp and agonising why there are no blue ticks and why the recipient hasn’t answered. We may try out a ‘calming app’ or try another remedy but sleep evades us. In the endless night, worries take on different dimensions and who know what is lurking in the room? Frances Sholto-Douglas and Bianca Oosthuizen deliver nuanced performances – and they can sing as well. I was impressed by the staging – attention to production design – props, lighting and soundscape (fabulous). Direction by Natalie Fraser is seamless as the scenes hover between imagination and reality and the shuffling of spheres. It was lovely to see a new play. This team has brought Earworm to stage – from its nascent beginnings as a student piece – to a fully-fledged play – a quirky, entertaining and insightful piece of theatre. I hope to see Earworm staged at other venues.

❇Featured image – supplied. Related coverage of Earworm on TheCapeRobyn: