Tag Archives: Vik Sivalingam

The Ice Cream Boys

The Ice Cream Boys


Jermyn Street Theatre

The Ice Cream Boys

The Ice Cream Boys

Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 11th October 2019



“There’s never been a better time to make this study, and the Jermyn Street production does it with panache”


On 11th October 2019, two days after Jermyn Street Theatre opened its new production, newspapers reported that former President of South Africa Jacob Zuma was to stand trial for corruption charges in relation to billion-pound arms deals. Charges against Zuma are not new; these same charges had simply been held off until now.

This is all very timely for The Ice Cream Boys. The sweet name belies the murky political intrigue at its heart. The single act play posits a meeting between two architects of the rainbow nation’s modern history: Zuma and his former intelligence services mastermind, Ronnie Kasrils.

In Gail Louw’s new play, we’re asked to enter into the fantasy of Kasrils and Zuma meeting in the present day. They’re old men now, their paths crossing in a starched hospital room as they both await tests and treatments for the sorts of conditions that come to men in their eighties. Zuma reports that he’s slow to pass water (‘Prostate’, he says grimly) and Kasrils that he has a possible skin melanoma after ‘all that time in the sun’. But the men, former allies, have plenty of unresolved differences. Cue a complex but taut psychological interplay, as the pair play metaphorical (and literal) chess and debate lives spent steeped in divisions of race and class.

Set design (Cecilia Trono) is simple but clever, neatly invoking a clinical white hotel room that acts as a kind of purgatory. The men are left alone to spar but for occasional interruptions by their nurse – and their past. When history intrudes, often in the form of painful memories, lighting (by Tim Mascall) shifts, jarring back to the cool, sanitised hospital room after.

The two male leads – Andrew Francis as Zuma and Jack Klaff as Kasrils – hold the stage with astonishing personality. Klaff, especially, is spellbinding, using his whole physicality to invoke Kasrils and maximising his passing resemblance to the man. The South African accents, so often mangled, are almost faultless, and the charisma such that we find ourselves in a bind as to whether to warm to or despise these deeply flawed individuals.

It might be easy to overlook the third player here; Bu Kunene as Thandi, the nurse tending to her patients with increasing exasperation. The play has Thandi transforming into numerous other characters, appearing magically transformed each time – from Zuma’s mother to Nelson Mandela, Kunene delivers with skill and a quiet certainty. So understated is her performance, especially as an increasingly steely Thandi, and so in contrast to the bombast of the Zuma and Kasrils characters, that it shows a real talent for handling sensitive characterisation. It’s also essential to see a woman here, playing and representing the many women who were implicated and caught up in – and harmed by – the political and personal machinations of the men.

The politicians appear variously as children, laughing and singing in fond waves of nostalgia and petulant when denied ice cream, and as uncompromising despots debating solutions for their divided country. Each is misty-eyed at memories of the women who influenced them – but in the next breath, we’re graphically reminded of Zuma’s rape accusation (dismissed in court but presented as near-fact here, with Zuma barely bothering to deny it).

And this is the truth of politics; complicated, messy issues led by complicated, messy and perhaps ultimately irredeemable individuals. There’s never been a better time to make this study, and the Jermyn Street production does it with panache.


Reviewed by Abi Davies

Photography by Robert Workman


The Ice Cream Boys

Jermyn Street Theatre until 2nd November


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Original Death Rabbit | ★★★★★ | January 2019
Agnes Colander: An Attempt At Life | ★★★★ | February 2019
Mary’s Babies | ★★★ | March 2019
Creditors | ★★★★ | April 2019
Miss Julie | ★★★ | April 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (A) | ★★★ | June 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (B) | ★★★ | June 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (C) | ★★★★ | June 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (D) | ★★ | June 2019
For Services Rendered | ★★★★★ | September 2019


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There or Here – 3.5 Stars


There or Here

Park Theatre

Reviewed – 25th January 2018


“The play teeters toward melodrama in the second half as the plot takes an unexpected turn”


In recent times almost no industry has been spared from jobs being outsourced overseas, but in There or Here the audience are asked what happens when life, or at least the gestation of it, is outsourced? Written by Jennifer Maisel, There or Here looks at the relationship between reproductive autonomy and parenthood, fertility tourism, marital disconnect and emigrant connection to their birthplace.

Robyn and Ajay (played by Lucy Fenton and Chris Nayak), are an American couple desperate to make plans for the future before the present catches up with them. Robyn’s cancer diagnosis has brought an immediacy to decisions about starting a family and so, wanting a child that is biologically theirs, the couple seek out a surrogate in India.

The play is set in early 2006 but alternates between past and present, centring around the week the couple spend in India arranging the surrogacy. Both Fenton and Nayak give convincing performances at such a critical juncture in any relationship.

Apart from the outsourcing central to the plot, we see other forms of outsourced labour made possible by technology in a globalised world. With the cancer and surrogacy causing a strain on their relationship, Robyn and Ajay talk very little to each other, preferring instead to open up to a technical support operator, drive-through attendant or even phone-sex worker. Rakhee Thakrar is versatile as all three and more, although underutilised as merely a sounding board for the leads monologued frustrations. Ursula Mohan and Manish Ghandi double up as the surrogate’s doctor and husband in India and Robyn’s mother and mother’s much younger toy boy in America, for some light comic relief.

The play teeters toward melodrama in the second half as the plot takes an unexpected turn. It feels as if Maisel is trying to cover too much ground and given the complex themes would have benefitted from a less confused outcome.

There or here was produced by Special Relationship productions, whose mission is to “find work that features underrepresented demographics”, boasting for this production “an entirely female, BAME, and/or LGBTQ+ cast and crew”, something that unfortunately is still all too rare in British Theatre. It is the combination of the authentic performances, sound, visuals and set under Vik Sivalingam’s direction that make for an overall engaging and thought provoking show.


Reviewed by Amber Woodward

Photography by Ikin Yum


There or Here

Park Theatre until 17th February



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