Award-winning playwright premieres acid-tongued The Hucksters at Alexander Upstairs

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BASED on the release below, and having seen The Demon Bride, I decided I wanted to see The Hucksters too, the latest play from award-winning playwright and director, Louis Viljoen (The Kingmakers, The Pervert Laura, The Demon Bride). How you judge being attracted to something described as “a production that is both depraved and utterly liberating within an engaging context of regret and vengeance rooted in cruel relationships and savage betrayal” is up to you.

“Louis Viljoen is known for his dark comedies and unsettling dramas that reveal what hides in the murky corners of the mind…true to his style of orchestrating masterful twists and turns…The Hucksters…is an acid-tongued exploration of a casual sexual encounter gone awry. A man and a woman meet after not seeing each other for years and what starts off as a romantic, booze-fuelled evening, slowly begins to unravel into a psychological mystery as an incident from their shared history rears its head. The mistakes of the past become the horrors of the present as these two broken people dig into their previous lives and the lies that lead them to each other.”

Viljoen’s work gets mixed reactions from theatre-goers. He uses a lot of swearing, for example, which some folks can’t deal with, and for them it characterises his plays. Compared only with The Demon Bride, this one is relatively tame. It doesn’t shy away from the language, however, and in this context – while sometimes jarring – it feels somewhat natural, and is used for full effect. The truths that are revealed are ultimately more shocking than the expletives.

Alexander Upstairs is an intimate space, and for this play, if you sit in the front row it’s almost uncomfortably voyeuristic – as if you are in the room with Beth (Emily Child) and Fred (Nicholas Pauling). The set is minimal – a rumpled bed speaking to what occurred shortly before we all arrived on the scene – and a chair, a canvas upon which the story is painted. The dialogue is everything; Viljoen sure makes his actors work hard. It’s stylised, relentless, and demands your attention as the layers are peeled back, forcing us to see the sordid past of these deeply flawed characters who can at the same time evoke sympathy.

Don’t see this if you’re after a bit of lighthearted frivolity. See it if you want a short, sharp jab of delicious discomfort and reality.

Set and lighting design is by Niall Griffin. The Hucksters at Alexander Upstairs until August 3.Tickets are R130 a person, with a R20 discount for prepaid bookings. Tickets can be booked online here. Advance booking is recommended for this limited season.

Warning: The Hucksters contains explicit language and scenes of a sexual nature. Herbal cigarettes are used during the performance. There is an advisory age of 18 years. More information here.

Social Media: #TheHucksters

PHOTO CREDIT: ALMA NEL ©

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