THE HUCKSTERS review. English drama written and directed by Louis Viljoen with Emily Child and Nicholas Pauling. Production design Niall Griffin. At The Golden Arrow Studio at the Baxter Theatre.

The Hucksters review

THERESA SMITH reviews

If it’s dark, twisted and biting in just the right way to challenge your assumptions, it must be a Louis Viljoen play.

Viljoen’s latest one-act play is tightly written and directed, drawing on the acting talent of two people at the top of their game. Re-staged on the small stage of the Golden Arrow Studio, it is an intimate, almost voyeuristic experience.

The Hucksters, is about a chance encounter between two people in the advertising industry that turns out to be not so random at all.

It contains lots of profanity and the subject matter is adult, so heed the no persons under 18 age restriction. Children will be uncomfortable with the casual cruelty the couple on stage display towards each other, especially with the way it is tinged with an escalating sexual tension.

Dripping acid at times, Beth (Child) and Fred (Pauling) spar verbally after tumbling into bed, neither quite ready to go their separate ways. Both want something from the other, but for different reasons. Teasing out that first encounter through the lens of time gone by makes for intense repartee.

The Hucksters review

“Boldly going for the jugular”

Written from a decidedly male gaze now that me too has become a hashtag with a purpose, this staged encounter explores feelings of guilt, culpability and aspects of victimhood while questioning whether people can indeed change.

Child and Pauling are assured in their verbal sparring which comes rapid-fire, to the point that only afterwards do you start questioning just how truthful the characters were being with each other.

There are some great cutting remarks that elicit a titter or two because they are grimly funny, but this is not a humourous play at all. It is a very zeitgeist kind of encounter that would not have been the same kind of play if written three years ago, mirroring darkly the questions people are asking themselves as we re-examine past encounters and assumptions. For those who haven’t cottoned on, it is a good kick to start the process.

Boldly going for the jugular and discomforting in the best sense, it is not a play to like, but it is one to admire, laud and honour.

What: The Hucksters review

Where and when: Golden Arrow Studio, Baxter Theatre until February 1

Tickets: webtickets.co.za

WS