Theatre review: Living Remote: Bertha’s guide to life, love and pharmaceuticals

Posted: September 5, 2011 in Theatre & Event Reviews and Interviews

Living Remote: Bertha’s guide to life, love and pharmaceuticals – First published in the Cape Times

Anthea in action

Anthea in action

Anthea Thompson’s knee-slapping one-woman show is the perfect antidote to constipated sense of humour.

Her character, Bertha Cummings, has an enthusiastic obsession with pharmaceuticals which she flogs to her regular slew of dodgy customers. Whatever you may need; uppers, downers, painkillers, or performance enhancing chemicals, she’s got them stashed in the lining of her overcoat which she proudly flips open like a dirty old flasher. She also has a rather filthy mouth and a laugh that gurgles like a blocked drainpipe. To crown it all, Bertha suffers from incontinence and she proudly shows off her filled catheter, which is strapped to her thigh like a very unsexy garter.

She’s not really the kind of person you would want to dish out advice to your teenager, or anybody else for that matter, but she reckons her advanced years has given her the edge.  Bertha gives us a run-down of how to organize a love life, work life, and a quick, ‘dealing in pharmaceuticals 101’, course.  Bertha does some nasty looking things with an indoor exercise machine which septuagenarian’s really shouldn’t do. You will never look at exercise quite the same way again.  It is a hobby of hers is to hobble around in the Wynberg pharmacy, marveling in the latest geriatric accoutrements and medications. Even administering a skin cream to her own ankle is turned into a sordidly saucy procedure under Bertha’s somewhat reprobate hands.

By the time she is demonstrating how to administer CPR to a blow up doll, the show reaches its hilarious peek. The show has an age restriction of 13. It is a little filthy-minded, but it’s all tongue firmly in cheek humour, and since most of us are inevitably heading for old-age we might as well have a giggle along its potholed road.

The multi-award winning Thompson first created Bertha Cummings for the Cracks and the City comedy show which also features Shimmy Isaacs, Marianne Thamm and Anne Hirsch. Clearly the juvenile and filthy-minded old Bertha needed to be aired out more often, and so Thompson decided to take her on a one-woman journey, with hilarious results.  Thompson’s excellent comic timing reflects her experience as an actress. It’s really not intellectual comedy.  Bertha is a rather, lighthearted, show filled with quirky sketches that feels quite spontaneous and at times a little risqué. Nothing too deep.  It is very good for polishing the old funny bones but it’s not going to leave you with any profound wisdom apart from the certainty that getting old is not always very pretty.

Thompson is a consummate actress and she really is a joy to watch, whether she puts on comedy, or something more serious.  She has had a rather busy few months. This year alone she gave a superb performance in The Taming of the Shrew at Maynardville. She also acted opposite Sir Anthony Sher in Broken Glass, with a cappella group, Not The Midnight Mass, and in the second installment of Cracks and the City. 

We got really lucky on opening night. The entire Cracks and the City team of comediennes were out in full support of Thompson.  After the show, under a big old tree outside, the women simply burst out into a smattering of impromptu performances; much to our delight.

Tickets for show are R115.  Theatre-goers can enjoy a delicious pre-show supper at the Kalk Bay Theatre Café and doors open from 6pm. To book, contact 073 220 5430 or visit www.

Directed by Alan Comittie. Starring Anthea Thompson.  At the Kalk Bay Theatre until 24 September, at 20h30. @ASTRID STARK


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