‘Rent’ delivers quality theatre

Philip Cowie, left, as Roger, and Jaydee Mulder, right, as Mark, sing the title song ‘Rent’, while rent collector Benny (Arthur Daniels) looks on
Philip Cowie, left, as Roger, and Jaydee Mulder, right, as Mark, sing the title song ‘Rent’, while rent collector Benny (Arthur Daniels) looks on

 Provocative and refreshing in its presentation; entertaining and engaging from beginning to end and with relevance to timeless social issues: Rent, The Musical is a production not to be missed.

Directed by theatre stalwart and celebrated director Robin Williams, and produced by Pemads in collaboration with Williams’s Platform Productions, Rent, The Musical will conjure up emotions and sentiments few local productions have done in the past.

Set in New York City’s Eastside Village during the tumultuous 1980s and against the backdrop of the HIV/Aids epidemic, this story is one of love, friendship and the push to survive in a world of poverty and struggle.

It is a story that pulls at the heartstrings, while delving into the desire to be accepted and loved.

Based loosely on Puccini’s La Boheme, Rent catapults the audience into the lives of a bohemian group of young creatives who must cope with the physical and emotional consequences of sexual disease, along with infidelity, drug abuse and trying to find their place in the world.

The brilliantly cast production showcases some of the best young talent Port Elizabeth has to offer. Theatre aficionados will not be disappointed as the lighting, set and costume design are also second to none.

Musical direction by Petrus Meyer coupled with expert choreography and vocal direction by Chireen Ferreira make Rent an outstanding showpiece, with Wednesday’s opening night audience becoming fully invested in the plot and characters right from the opening minutes.

Littered with comical interludes and dance/sing-along moments, the show addresses topics that are as relevant as ever, though some may be perceived as taboo. Central to the narrative is aspiring filmmaker and part-narrator Mark Cohen, outstandingly played by Jaydee Mulder, who manages to bring a sense of awe to the role.

Kasvia von Memerty, as performance artist Maureen Johnson, fully captures the audience’s attention, while her character juggles a relationship with Joanne Jefferson, delightfully played by Zena Bally.

Both Von Memerty and Bally must be commended on their vocal ability and stage presence, though numerous other performances also stand out in this quality piece.

Litha Hewitt-Coleman as drag queen transsexual Angel must be applauded for embracing the character so passionately that the audience is left quite heartbroken at his/her suffering.

Nkosinathi Rodrigues, as Angel’s lover, Tom Collins, captures the love and devotion he has for his partner so poignantly that some in the audience will be brought to tears.

Phillip Cowie as Roger Davis and Cailan van Heerden as Mimi Marquez provide for some deeply moving moments, their already complicated relationship rendered further so by Mimi’s tryst with rent collector Arthur Daniels, played by Benjamin Coffin.

Van Heerden delivers a flawless performance with a voice that will send shivers down your spine – this mesmerising young performer is definitely one to watch.

If you appreciate quality theatre then do not miss Rent, The Musical. See it at the Pemads Theatre in Athol Fugard Terrace until June 2 (no shows on Sundays and Mondays).

Shows start at 7.30pm and tickets are R120 at Computicket. Do note the production contains mature themes and some scenes with explicit language. Parental guidance is advised.