By Arno Cornelissen
It feels like I was duped, misled by the title and description of the performance. I recheck the programme; “what is this play about again?”
According to the National Arts Festival website, 4:59 follows the story of “two strangers who meet and begin an unlikely friendship… their truths slowly emerge as they stumble forward”. The play sells the idea of something conceptually rich; mystic elements to be explored during the last minute between night and dawn.
I was waiting for the mystery, the intrigue. Rather, I am left with endless questions. Why is that shadow of glass still cast onto the stage? Is that lip-ice dropped on the stage a part of the show? Why is that disembodied shadow talking so loudly?
4:59 seems to juggle (and drop) many balls. There are a variety of characters played between two performers who struggle to distinguish between the differing personalities.
Whenever a serious issue is conveyed – there is no substance, no resolution. Instead, the humour borders on offensive. Making gags about Marikana and the Queer community is done distastefully in 4:59, and perhaps only for reactionary purposes.
The play has its moments. There is one memorable scene where all the technical elements come together into a coherent (albeit crazy) performance. They switch between the roles of interrogation smoothly, flipping their jackets up or down to clearly indicate who they are and what they are doing. Still, it is not enough.
The play draws to a close. Looking in the opposite direction of the stage, I quickly put on my hoodie and shades, bolting for the door and out to greener pastures.