By Shezanne Socher
Moms in the audience will leave the theatre with a great sense of accomplishment whilst others might be a little hesitant to start a family any time soon.
Pregnant Pause is an authentically South African production that had every member of the audience in stitches from beginning to end.
Charmaine Weir-Smith and Michael Richard both play numerous characters ranging from the surly midwife who you wouldn't want anywhere near you when the panic of labour sets in, to the fumbling husband, Geoffrey, who is eager to please.
Charmaine is a dedicated mother and television personality, having starred in programs such as Sorted, Generations and Hard Copy.
She won a Naledi Award for Best Actress in a Comedy for her role in the 2006 production 2 4 The Price of 1.
Michael performing his Dr Gary Smit monologue will crack you up as he illustrates the real beauty of a caesarian, whilst Charmaine's "breast is best" speech will make you laugh until your belly aches.
When asked about the challenges of portraying multiple characters onstage, Michael said: "It's extraordinary to find that you have all these people in you."
He has been in the industry for some thirty years now and has worked with both the accredited Richard E Grant on his new movie Wah Wah as well as with the talented John Malkovich in Betrayal.
His stage performances include Othello, Children of a Lesser God, Decadence and, most recently, taking on the role of Tevya in Fiddler on the Roof.
"I have to love performing. Communicating with an audience is an extremely special experience. Unlike film or television, theatre audiences see and believe in your character instantly and their reaction to your performance creates a very unique connection."
And as for Michael's first experience onstage?
After a long and thoughtful pause, Michael recalls his very first memory as a performer. "I was in a school production of A Man for all Seasons playing the part of Richard Rich. I always knew that I wanted to be onstage. I believe actors are born, not bred."
On the opening night, I found myself seated next to a vivacious, six foot blonde, who laughed and giggled shyly at almost every line.
Thank goodness the play was genuinely funny as the sophisticated bombshell sitting beside me was in fact actress Louise Saint-Claire who has been married to Michael for the past twenty-six years.
"He's always this funny. Even at home," said Louise who has just finished starring in Alan Swerdlow's production of The 39 Steps, based on the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name.
Louise agrees that as an actress, there is nothing better than "clicking together" and being able to "fly with your audience".
When asked how similar Michael is to his character, Louise revealed that he is nothing like Geoffrey although "he does often surprise her with little romantic things in the same way that Geoffrey makes small gestures for his on-stage wife Charmaine."
I guess love is in the details and perhaps it is these small tokens that have led to such a successful twenty-six year marriage.
Charmaine's parts include nervous wife Clara Bell and the hellish, underpaid and overworked midwife.
Charmaine's good friend and audience member on the night Alex Steyl thought that Pregnant Pause was both hilarious and truthful in its account of parenthood.
"For me, and I'm sure for Charmaine as well, the production was like looking into a mirror. As mothers, the play is, in a sense, a tragic comedy. You can relate to the character's encounters, both good and bad, and really see yourself in their situation."
And as for Charmaine off the stage and out of character?
"She is hilarious, a laugh a minute. You only have to have a girl's lunch out with her to see how genuinely funny she is" enthused Alex during the performance.
The production was designed and directed by another South African talent, Sylvaine Strike. The recipient of numerous Naledi Awards, Sylvaine is best known for her roles in Shopping and Fu**ing and the 2006 hit, Black and Blue. For those of you not so in tune with the theatre world, you too would have interacted with Sylvaine Strike at some point, as the sultry radio and television voice behind the Cell C adverts. Finally, the mystery is solved.
"Sylvaine has really established a name for herself. She is a creative storyteller that constructs relevant narratives for our time" said Daphne Kuhn, owner and producer of the Old Mutual Theatre on the Square.
"They are all superlative people to work with both on a professional and personal level. They are sincere and passionate South African practitioners, so creative and talented."
The cast members were so down to earth as they mingled with the audience over more cheese and wine after the production. Publicity stunts aside, fame most certainly hasn't gone to these actor's heads. They are talented but don't let you know it at every given opportunity. Another great play that most certainly affirms the saying "local is lekker".
What a great article!!!
Author: Alison Raymond, 1 April 2008
Thank you for this article, it was very comprehensive and I'm really eager to go and see the play now!
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