We are more alike than we think. Or, slightly more disconcertingly, we are not as unique as we like to believe. Were this not so, good comedy would be a much more difficult genre than it is. Because surely, the most satisfying humour, the belly-laugh inducing kind, is when we recognise ourselves.
And so I came to have my cheeks wet with mirth listening to a young woman tell an anecdote of her humiliation as a ten-year-old. Of how the way children decide you’re simply not part of their group anymore is by not telling you. Cape Town – Vereeniging, arty girly – sporty guy, late ’90s – early ’80s. One would think these differences of geography, gender, temperament and generation would create original situations. But no, when it comes to the major themes, we’re quite predictably human.
Despite this, oddly enough, life and its experience are not necessarily mundane. Because, to risk stating the obvious, although similar things have happened before and continue to happen all the time everywhere – falling in love, becoming independent, getting ditched, discovering a great band, having your car stolen – they’re happening to you for the first time. And if it’s not for the first time, the last time wasn’t quite like this time, was it? As David Byrne put it: “Today is an important occasion.”
Paradoxically, what’s also great is hearing someone’s story. The funniest, most tragic stories are ones that are honest. That do not succumb to hubris or self-protective deceit. Like the one told in Last Rounds, written by Tara Notcutt.
Notcutt’s tale, acted wonderfully by Rebecca Makin-Taylor, is so honest its raw. Not raw as in unpolished, but raw as in as truthful as one can be without estranging all friends, family, acquaintances and former lovers.
Raw as a drunk, lovesick girl pouring her heart out at 2am in an empty bar. Which is, of course, the entire premise of the play.
By censoring herself as little as possible, Notcutt keeps Makin-Taylor real. Wincingly so at times, but manages to maintain the theatrical paradigm which enables her to continue functioning in general society.
There’s just one short scene that does not ring true in this initial showing of the play during the Alexander Bar’s pre-National Arts Festival programme but Notcutt, who is an acclaimed director, knows exactly where that is and will hopefully make the required adjustment from which festinoes will benefit.
Although the subject matter – love, relationships, heartbreak – is age old, this is a fresh, vivid telling, and it is testament to the writer’s own character that it is not a one-woman rant against the ubiquitous disappointment of men. With a disheveled Makin-Taylor at the helm it is a great show.
Buy those women a drink. – Steve Kretzmann
Last Rounds is on at the Alexander Bar in Cape Town until 19 June before going to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.