News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Thursday September 19th 2019

Unexpected pleasure

Shaun Acker and Zanne Solomon do a superb job of bringing Yasmina Reza's The Unexpected Man to life.


The reality of obtaining what you desire never lives up to the expectations created by the desire itself. By comparison, reality always disappoints.

I paraphrase, probably quite badly, but this is essentially what French playwright Yazmina Reza’s female character in The Unexpected Man says to herself at some point in the play.

This one thought, buttressed with so many others expressed through the two characters internal monologues which reveal the nature of their personal desires – recognition, companionship, professional fulfillment, adventure – is the fulcrum upon which the play turns.

Waiting, with increasingly heightened expectation for the two characters adroitly played by Zanne Solomon and Shaun Acker, to break the mounting tension created by their self-imposed social isolation, the insertion of that single observation into the text casts delicious doubt on what would otherwise be a conclusive ending.

Although conclusive endings have become a staple junk-food diet predominantly fed to us by the Hollywood machine, the ambiguity so delicately inserted into this work creates a path for us to wander back through the text and look into its hidden recesses.

As such, Reza’s play about a bitter novelist and a bereft reader sitting side by side in a train carriage yet unable to break through the barriers of silence to connect with the person they are almost touching, is a masterpiece.

And Acker and Solomon’s acting is superb.

Although with text of this quality one might be tempted to think a good actor could almost get away with simply reading it, it is depressingly easy to mangle good literature. Just look what competent actors do to Shakespeare – all the time.

No, the constraints of spending the entire play seated and almost touching a character you’re too socially awkward to actually speak to while engaging in alternating interior monologues that reveal how much you would like to break through the barrier of silence would prove the undoing of many an actor.

However, Acker and Solomons seem to revel in these constraints to physically articulate the nuances of Reza’s writing and so breathe genius into life. — Steve Kretzmann

The Unexpected Man is showing at The Intimate Theatre on Hiddingh campus until 12 May, thereafter at the Alexander Bar Upstairs Theatre from 15 – 18 May and 22 – 25 May.

Book by emailing or buy tickets at the door.




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