Garden to heal the spirit

[caption id="attachment_39574" align="alignright" width="405"] SHARING SPACE: Scenes from 'Black and Blue' with Atandwa Kani and Sylvaine Strike is a hit at the festival this year[/caption]

BLACK AND BLUE with Atandwa Kani and Sylvaine Strike, presented by the Fortune Cookie theatre Company at the Rhodes Box Theatre until Sunday (Main, theatre) Review by Gillian McAinsh

BLACK and Blue is the simple tale of how when a person is drowning in grief, kindness and a garden can help to heal the spirit. What makes this tale so enchanting is how it is told and here the talents of award-winning Sylvaine Strike and Atandwa Kani truly shine.

Kani plays gardener Jackson Siboiboi, who approaches the paranoid Mrs Swart, who has closeted herself in a blue funk inside her home, for a job. So far, so South African and the tender yet recognisable garden path down which this odd couple travel together is already striking a chord with festival audiences.

Atandwa may still be known as the son of the more famous John but his star is rising with international experience and several theatre awards.

Here he wears a beard, glasses and a hat to play the gardener Jackson and is eerily like his father John. The same dazzling smile and infectious chuckle of Kani senior is put to good use to lure the grieving Mrs Swart out of her self-imposed isolation.

Although Lecoq-trained Strike moves with ethereal grace, she and Kani beautifully share the same space, a revolving centrepiece with only a few props and a fairly bare stage as a backdrop.

Strike's every gesture is nuanced and conveys so much that is recognisable: an imaginary ring being removed for widowhood, the comfort of tea, how grief can sink a life and more. It is a wonderful performance with no wasted words or movements.

Helen Iskander, Danny Mooi and James Cuningham teamed up with Strike to write the play, presented by The Fortune Cookie Theatre Company, but it was conceptualised by Strike.

This is the 10th anniversary of the original production – also with Strike – and the sold-out signs and standing ovation at yesterday's opening performance were richly deserved, as is its status on the main programme instead of the Fringe.