Lift Club is one of this year’s Fest productions from the South African Theatre Village, is directed by Mariska Denysschen and co-written by Renette Denysschen. The production stars Jade Meyers, Emil Lars, Sthandile Nkosi and Carla Belmonte as four co-workers that share a lift club to work every day, during which time they share their daily experiences and reflect the diversity that is the South African diversity. All the while, they abide by a single rule: “What’s said in the car, stays in the car.”
In the way that Lift Club is structured, a major factor that determines its success is the relatability of the concerned characters. This is where a great deal of dramatic writers and directors miss the mark, having to (subconsciously) use dramatic speech to keep the dialogue in the tone of the medium. In order for one to take these “normal” South Africans seriously, their interactions being the main focus of the production, they need to speak and act like anyone else we know would.
Thankfully, such is the case for Lift Club. Also, by way of keeping the subject material light-hearted enough, the Denysschens have demonstrated a clear understanding of how South Africans, whatever their race, class or background, engage with themselves and others.
The setting for the performances allow for close-knit intimacy where the engagement is forced front and centre. All four of the performers do an excellent job of portraying discontented employees, who become embroiled in a company scandal and who begin to question each other.
Also conversed about are relationships, domestic struggles, and how the roads of Gauteng will most probably end up killing them (no foreshadowing meant by that last part).
One might assume that, given the nature of the show and what sort of Politic is at play here, Lift Club goes down the heavy-trodden road and loses itself in the wild lands of South African discourse. But no, it is framed as a slice-of-life story, and that frankly is something to be appreciated.
The production is also simple, structured episodically over the course of four days (four different designated drivers), and framed by musical intervals illustrating the passage of time. Something that struck me was Denysschen’s use of sound, which was also a highlight of another production of hers, Human Pieces II. The climax of the show involves some excellent audio decisions and executions, having me literally on the edge of my seat (again, no foreshadowing).
A common agreement among theatre practitioners is that the medium has the power and the obligation to reflect the ordinary and then transcend it. Highlighting the good, the bad and the in-between of our realities, Lift Club revels in that first part. While it may not necessarily challenge anyone watching, it remains a clam and pleasant little production that’s meant to be enjoyed.
Watch Lift Club at 14:00 and 20:00 on 6 July; and at 16:00 on 7 July at NG Kerk Hall
By Sam Spiller