Think of Africa

It would be nice to be able to announce a sound, new New Zealand play. But Think of Africa strikes one as being neither "new" nor "New Zealand". It is, however, sound and worthy of repeated performance. The plot is an interesting amalgam of every successful pre-Anger drama. An 80 year old matriarch, Amelia, and her 60 year old bachelor son, Arthur, inhabit the "decayed Selby mansion ... less than 106 miles from Auckland". The former is a powerful and disturbing local figure, the latter a recluse: he is stained from temple to neck by a huge purple birthmark. Rowena and (yes) Robert, twin children of Amelia, return after an extended and silent absence. One is an incredible blend of bitchiness and superiority; a multidivorcee, she lives in wealth and debauchery in Rome. The other is a rising tycoon who almost has a conscience; he lives in the collective bosom of a fat wife, five daughters and debauchery, in Auckland. It is revealed that their return is designed to tally up the inheritance and to wangle shares in a commercial marina that the locals plan for a patch of family salt marsh that Amelia and Robert have designated for a park and bird sanctuary. It all falls neatly into three Acts, three fine climaxes, and a forest of unlikely verbiage. It is significant that Arthur, the most interesting and credible character, says least and does most. His mother is potentially an excellent dramatic creation. Perceptive and dominant, she is given too many lines in Act 3, but at least she has something worth saying. The same cannot be said for the twins. The theme is well worthwhile, if unoriginal: the ugliness of the world is created by "beautiful" people, and the malformed are the true beauties. Think of Africa is well-made, has two very fine characterisations, and deals with worthwhile contemporary ideas. It has a lot of weak dialogue, some quite excellent lines, and an ending that you can scent half an act off, but that you wouldn't believe if I told you. --Act