IF there is a lesson to be learned from Clinton Marius’ latest solo show, Salon Sue, it’s that you should never judge a book by its cover, writes ESTELLE SINKINS.
The show, which can be seen at Sibaya Casino’s iZulu Theatre from July 28 to 30, is inspired by his hairdresser, Grant Mack, who he says is a ‘rather famous character in Durban’, adding: “When you go to Grant for a haircut, you don’t just get your hair done. You also get funny stories and some cutting stories!”
Like Mack, Sue has plenty of stories to share and a witty repartee that’s sharper than her scissors.
“She’s a darling, but she can also be rather like a female Basil Fawlty… get on the wrong side of her and it’s bad,” says Marius, who was born and raised in Pietermaritzburg.
She’s also not one-dimensional. Like all of Marius’ shows, including the award-winning B!*ch Stole My Doek and White Christmas, theatre-goers can expect the character to have multiple layers.
“I think the audience will be touched and suprised when they watch Salon Sue,” says William Charlton-Perkins, of Copy Dog Productions, which is producing the play. “It takes you in a whole different direction.”
The lady tasked with bringing Sue to life is popular radio, theatre and film star, Maeshni Naicker, and Marius is happy to admit that he wrote it with her in the role.
“It’s getting to be a bit of a habit,” he added. “I don’t have the kind of budget that will allow me to write and stage huge productions with fancy sets and lots of actors. Instead I do small, people-centred plays … and for this one is I only had one person in mind.”
The pair worked together in Marius’ hugely successful Radio Lotus drama, Lollipop Lane, for many years and have remained good friends.
“I love working with Maeshni,” Marius says. “Her contribution to Lollipop Lane was a highlight of the show’s appeal … and her unerring gift for delivering a comic line to perfection proved itself onstage as well, when I brought two of my plays, Ladies of Lollipop Lane and Mystic Twisters to Sibaya in recent seasons.”
It’s Naicker’s first solo show and the actress, who starred in the massive movie hit, Keeping Up With The Kandasamys, is said to be feeling rather nervous.
“When I told her I’d written Salon Sue for her, Maeshni reacted with total terror,” said Marius, adding that she asked him if he really thought it was a good idea.
“She actually said to me: ‘Don’t you think I will mess it up?’ It’s unbelievable. Maeshni’s had years of success in film, radio and theatre shows, but she doesn’t realise how good she is.
“If you go for a walk with her through a shopping centre she gets swamped by people who want to talk to her or get a photo. She never says no and is so down to earth and so humble. I don’t think she really realises just how much she is loved by the public.”
Asked how he would be tackling staging his play in the vastness of the iZulu Theatre, Marius says he has been forced to improvise to reduce the size of performance space to make it more intimate.
“I have to keep in mind that this show will travel to other venues, and those venues will be a lot smaller,” he added.
“There are not a lot of set pieces, so it’s definitely going to be a challenge for us to fill the space, but I believe we can make it work. We’re going to fill it with personality!”
Marius, who attended Merchiston Primary and Alexandra High School as a child, is hoping that his show will be able to come to ‘Maritzburg and the Midlands.
“I always want to bring my work home,” he says, “and I have had success with The Fantastical Flea Circus, Sweetie Darling and B!*ch Stole My Doek at the Hexagon Theatre at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Pietermaritzburg campus and the Schlesinger Theatre at Michaelhouse. Hopefully we can travel with Salon Sue too.”
As for what he hopes the audience will take from the show, Marius wants them to realise just what a fine comedic and dramatic actress Naicker is.
“This is her solo moment, her chance to shine and I want people to see that,” he added.
“I also want them to be entertained and to have a break from the painful world we live in. We all need to laugh.”
Performances of Salon Sue are at 8 pm on Friday, July 28 and Saturday, July 29 and at 3 pm on Sunday, July 30. Tickets are R120 at Computicket. With just three performances, early booking is advised to avoid disappointment