A compelling mixture of comedy and drama, the play traces the last days of a group of Grey Street traders as they face the challenges of increasing crime, failing businesses, friendships across racial and cultural denominations, enmeshed with family ties. Spice ‘n Stuff focuses on a feisty trader, Rita, as she grapples with the pressures of her dwindling business, but it is the fear of her secret which threatens to unravel her, as she undergoes an emotional journey of self-discovery.
The actions of the street and the poignancy of the store become increasingly sensitising as the gripping piece plays out to a dramatic finale. Described by Singh as “a celebration of life, here, now, and always”, Spice ‘n Stuff is again directed by Themi Venturas, reprising his success with this piece during its brief run at the Playhouse last year. The production stars award-winning actress, Shika Budhoo, as Rita, with Rory Booth as her son, Vijay, a trainee attorney who is nearing the last days of his training but is uncertain whether he will be retained as a qualified attorney.
A seamless ensemble of equal skill. (Review by Clinton Marius)
Like a good curry, Ashwin Singh’s play, Spice n’ Stuff is a varied mix of appealing ingredients, perfectly flavoured, with a bit of a kick … and a pleasant aftertaste that remains long after one has left the theatre.
Described by Singh as “a celebration of life, here, now and always”, this window into the lives of the Grey Street community revolves around spice shop owner, Rita, and the colourful folk in her orbit. Images of Grey Street, past and present, are projected onto two large screens, and serve to distinguish the various locales in which the story unfolds. Love, betrayal, fear and friendship all play out in this fine balance between comedy and drama.
Under the deft direction of Themi Venturas, the six talented cast members fill out every inch of the stage, and every inch of the characters they portray. From the subtle and nuanced performance by Shika Budhoo in the principal role of Rita; Rory Booth’s measured and consummate portrayal of her son, Vijay; Ashwin Singh’s convincing and engaging turn as Shahid; Dhaveshan Govender and Kajal Maharaj in the delicious dual roles of Ajith and Sagren, and Tiny’s mother and Rani; to Ntando Mncube’s comical Thulani … the cast deliver warm and memorable performances.
Singh’s beautifully crafted play is rich in humour and in sadness, peppered with witty one-liners and moving insights. Here is a microcosm of the endearing foibles and extraordinary resilience of a community under threat from all angles.
It is difficult to pull out any particular performance or part of this play for particular mention, as Venturas has inspired a seamless ensemble of equal skill, but the highlight of the play is a gripping stand-off between Budhoo as Rita, and Govender as Ajith. I’m certain that not even a bomb threat in the theatre at this point would have convinced the audience to leave.