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The Ice Cream Boys (Susan Elkin reviews)

The Ice Cream Boys
By Gail Louw – Part of The Memories Season
performance date: 11 Oct 2019
venue: Jermyn Street Theatre, 16b Jermyn Street,London SW1Y 6ST


Gail Louw’s new play presents former South African president Jacob Zuma (Andrew Francis) and white freedom fighter Ronnie Kasrils (Jack Klaff) as old men. They are each waiting for minor treatment in a hospital cared for by Nurse Thandi (Bu Kunene who also plays other roles as the two men reflect on the past). It’s tight, edgy, powerful and very intelligent.

Francis has clearly studied Zuma carefully. He has the mannerisms and the voice perfectly along with the capricious mood changes and bombast. He wheedles, boasts, cajoles, mocks, roars and makes grandiose, outlandish claims. It’s a well judged performance.

Klaff is a splendid foil too. The two men have known each other for a very long time and have a lot of shared baggage. Klaff listens intently before delivering his barbs as the two men richochet between pretended good humoured camaderie over a game of chess and venomous disagreement.

Kunene meanwhile makes a good job of representing the new post-apartheid generation. “We have problems that we feel we carry on our own back because old men and old women in power don’t understand our problems” she says with impressive, quiet assertiveness at the end of the play. She has a nice portfolio of accents too.

The play is really a lament for the idealism and determination which drove the anti-Apartheid movement for so long. Once Mandela had gone corruption, the play alleges, set in as new less scrupulous men assumed power, and this is what Klaff condemns so roundly in man he once worked with.

“You diverted millions, billions that should have gone to improving the living conditions of the …” he tells Zuma before he is interrupted, going on to refer to Zuma’s castle “with its countless rooms, cattle kraal, its dove cote, its amphitheatre” and “arms deals for benefactors”. The history is, of course, so recent that most audience members will remember these events unfolding

This interesting, arresting piece is yet another triumph for Jermyn Street Theatre. If ever there were a small, fringe theatre which consistently punches above its weight, this is it.

 First published by Sardines
Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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