Two to Tango (2006)

Andrew Stark and Liza Boyle have been married for sixteen years.  And it shows. It shows in the way they take each other for granted.  In their bickering about little things.  And in their different expectations about sex.

They live in Cape Town and, besides the normal ups and downs of a lengthy relationship, they also have to cope with the challenges of contemporary South Africa: a burglary, black economic empowerment and finding black friends.

Two to Tango is a comedy drama about a forty-something, white, superficially liberal, heterosexual couple with two teenage daughters living in, and coming to terms with, post-apartheid South Africa, and more specifically in Cape Town with its historical race divisions.

At the obvious level, since the play is about the give and take of relationships, the title is an abbreviation of the platitude “it takes two to tango”. At another level, marriage is a metaphor for South African society as a whole, implying that in order for it work, it requires commitment, compromise and cooperation from all who live in it.

History

Two to Tango was my attempt to write something more commercially viable that would generate income in order to subsidise my socio-political dramas.  Accordingly, I developed this play in a very different manner to my previous works.

It was similar to other works in that it went through the usual changes that came with it being selected for a PANSA staged reading festival (redrafting it prior to the reading, reworking it after the reading in the light of feedback given, etc), but it differed in that its later development was done in consultation with its intended market i.e. heterosexual couples.

Two weeks into the rehearsal process (after it had been selected as the Jury Runner Up and had been offered a slot at Daphne Kuhn’s Liberty Life Theatre on the Square), about 40 people were invited to a staged reading of the play at On Broadway one Sunday afternoon.  The audience members were given questionnaires to complete in which they were required to rate each scene, to comment on the believability of the characters and generally to provide feedback to a range of aspects of the play.  The staged reading was also followed by a discussion with the audience.

Based on the feedback received and an analysis of the completed questionnaires, I rewrote the play substantially, combining some scenes, deleting others, developing the characters more and changing the order of scenes.  The cast (Bo Petersen and Bruce Young) and director (Ruth Levin) then rehearsed the new script which premiered at the Liberty Theatre on the Square on 25 April 2006.

During the run at this theatre, I undertook further “research,” noting the points at which the audience guffawed, laughed or only sniggered.  I then reworked the play again in attempt to improve the comedy element, and the actors and director rehearsed this version prior to performing it at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.  Out of the three plays I had at the Festival, this one was the most popular in terms of attendance and income-generation, and proved its potential in this regard.

Two to Tango then played to good houses at On Broadway in Cape Town with a number of capacity houses, which made it possible to extend the run by a week.  It played at various festivals after that, including the Hilton Arts Festival, and ended with the current cast in a weeklong run at ARTSCAPE in December 2006.

Production Details

First production
Liberty Life Theatre on the Square, 25 April to 20 May 2006
Director – Ruth Levin

Cast

Bo Petersen as Lisa Doyle and Bruce Young as Andrew Stark.

Seasons

  • Liberty Life Theatre on the Square 25 Apr-20 May 2006
  • National Arts Festival Fringe, Grahamstown 1-7 July 2006
  • On Broadway 10 July-12 August 2006
  • Klein Libertas Theatre (Stellenbosch) 26, 30, 31 August 2006
  • Cultivaria Festival (Paarl) 23-24 September 2006
  • Hilton Arts Festival 14-16 September 2006
  • ARTSCAPE 4-9 December 2006

What the Critics said

After its premiere in April 2006

“Sharp observations, clever word play and references to local happenings resonate through this highly entertaining production.”

– Peter Feldman, Artslink.co.za

“Mike van Graan’s new comedy is hilarious, likeable and pure fun.  It is as near a perfect comedy as one could imagine.”

– Patience Bambalele, Sowetan

“I must admit that I also found myself laughing aloud a lot more than I’m generally prone to doing….Two to Tango…makes for an entertaining and highly enjoyable night out…”

– Anton Krueger, Litnet.co.za

“This is the perfect play to take your friends, and of course, your loved one along to.  You’ll find a thing or 10 to relate to.”

– Cathryn Pearman-Owens, The Citizen

“It’s sadly funny, universal as relationships are, yet set in contemporary South Africa…Van Graan knows how to make it all work in entertaining yet relevant fashion.”

- Diane de Beer, Pretoria News and The Star

“An unlikely, frothy, fun comedy comes from the playwright with the mightiest sword….”   

- Zingi Mkefa, Sunday Times

Awards/recognition

Jury Runner Up, NLDTF/PANSA Festival of Reading of New Writing, Satire and Comedy, November 2005

Availability of script and visual material

The script is available in unpublished form.  No DVD is available. Please contact info@mikevangraan.co.za.

Miscellaneous

Possibilities are now being explored to transform the play into a television comedy drama series.

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