Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

No. 2

Toa Fraser
King's Head
(2003)

Madeleine Sami is a prodigiously talented character actress and No.2 is the perfect showcase for her. She plays about ten members of a Fijian-New Zealand family, giving each a separate voice register, look and character.

There is no point during Toa Fraser's tightly scripted and very funny play where there is any doubt as to which person is being depicted. This is a rare compliment to someone on a bare stage with only her body and voice and a red chair as props.

Nanny Maria is the matriarch of a character-filled family. She thinks of herself as a successor to Marlon Brando's Godfather and has decided that this is the day when she will announce her successor. Quite what they will succeed to is unclear.

The preparations for the party split the genders. The women, the whining workhorse, Charlene Maria, a type that everyone will recognise and her prima donna cousin, Hibiscus Maria, prepare food. The men, led by hunky potential All Black Tyler and his sidekick, Sol, the would-be Lothario, have to find and roast a pig.

Miss Sami's greatest successes though are Nanny Maria, a toothless, bent old lady who still has control over the grandchildren; the very young Moses (6?) whose facial expressions and high-pitched voice are perfectly rendered especially in a karaoke performance; and the English Maria, Tyler's girlfriend, who gets very believably drunk. It is brave to bring an English character to Islington and Miss Sami carries it off with aplomb.

Fraser's script is very well-written with laughs falling over each other and opportunities for his actress (for whom the play was written) to show off her great skills as a mimic, her malleable face and, not the least, a stunning ability as a break dancer.

When this show was originally produced in a small Edinburgh Assembly Room in 2000, its writer was 25 and actress a mere twenty. They won a Fringe First then and both have great careers ahead. Do catch No.2. It is well worth the trip.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher