A man and a woman sit opposite each other in the detached intimacy of a train compartment. He is a famous author; she is an ardent admirer of his work. Will they eventually break the silence and speak to each other?
"Each character, although physically almost touching, also finds themselves as self-contained entities, trapped inside their own thoughts, unable to escape, yet desperate to do so," said co-star, co-producer and co-director Zanne Solomon. "Physically, they slowly revolve on an axis throughout the play, as if they were two people on a small, uninhabited, alien planet." (The play also stars co-producer and co-director Shaun Acker.)
I'm still not sure if the revolving stage worked for me, mostly because it meant that a large chunk of each character's dialogue was delivered to the back wall. It would have been interesting to see how things would have been different if the characters sat next to each other and both faced the audience. Tony Award-winning writer Yasmina Reza's text made it clear enough that they were facing each other so we as an audience could have made that mental adjustment ourselves.
A profound connection with the characters
"What makes this play so refreshingly different is the way in which it completely exposes the subtext of the play throughout, as the characters verbalise their inner thoughts as if having a conversation with each other," Solomon continued. "This uninhibited honesty catapults the audience into a profound connection with the characters, carried along the waves of their touching, funny and poignant thoughts."
All in all, The Unexpected Man is a fascinating exploration of what goes on inside our heads as well as those of the people we come into contact with every day. And even though we might make up the kind of stories and assumptions about each other that keep us separate, we share a lot more than we realise and aren't so different after all. It certainly has made me think twice about the strangers I come across in daily life. Perhaps it's about time to say hello!
The Unexpected Man (PG13) is at Cape Town's Intimate Theatre from 7 to 12 May and Alexander Bar from 15 to 25 May. For the Intimate Theatre (where the show starts at 8pm), tickets are R80 every night (R60 on presentation of a valid student card) with specials on Tuesday 7 (tickets for only R20), Wednesday 8 (two tickets for the price of one), Thursday 9 (ditto), and Sunday 12 May (free tickets for qualifiers of social media reward system). For Alexander Bar (where the show starts at 8.30pm), tickets are R80 each. For reservations, email moc.liamg@namdetcepxenueht or buy tickets at the door.