Posts Tagged ‘Cape Town Theatre review’

 They’re  back!!

THE MINNIE AND JOHNSON SHOW. With Emile Minnie and Godfrey Johnson.

At Beefcakes, Somerset Road, Green Point. 


When Godfrey Johnson and Emile Minnie get together on stage for the first time they bring with them a wealth of talent, good humour, enthusiasm and experience.

Their show is a potpourri of English and Afrikaans light-hearted cabaret numbers to which they have added a dash of more sober songs. The duo takes us on a journey through some music from the eighties, which they have personalised with their unconventional sense of humour and, at times, bawdy lyrics. Bonnie Tyler, Bronski Beat and Eurythmics all get a bit of a nip and tuck. Both also perform a few of their original numbers. Their instruments: a keyboard, a saxophone, and a glass and pen; which Johnson uses as a percussion instrument. They may be very professional musicians but their act also involves quite a bit of gentle, self-depreciating, humour. However, it is obvious that they have a lot of respect for each others’ craft and skill. 

Emile Minnie has recently released his fifth Afrikaans album, Supernova. In 2009, his Nagmusiek album was nominated for a SAMA in the category Best Alternative Afrikaans Album. His voice is soothing and unpretentious yet confident. Eva, a song written by Minnie, is a moving tribute to all women, which had us in tears. Minnie’s lyrics are at times unexpectedly moving, ‘Haar hart is sag/soos n blom se lag. Roughly translated; ‘her heart is soft as a flower’s laugh. He is a skilled saxophonist and keyboard player.

Godfrey Johnson has established an impressive name for himself with his more serious work, such as The Shadow of Brel, which is his interpretation of the work of the musical genius of Jacques Brel. Johnson’s voice and theatricality lends is perfect for the dramatic works of Brel. In 2010 he was nominated for a Fleur du Cap for this performance. During the first half of the evening he performs Brel’s Carousel with great affection and zeal. However, he is also skilled at interpreting the lighter side of life. He has an off-beat sense of humour and great comic timing. He is not afraid to embrace the clown inside him. He has this expressive rubber face that he skillfully pulls and squeezes to the tune of the music. Johnson is very skilled at playing the keyboard. His fingers effortlessly fly over the keys. His interpretation of Cell Block Tango, from the musical Chicago, is brilliantly performed and crammed with witty local references. Johnson is also known for his collaborations with Pieter-Dirk Uys in his various cabarets and also for his musical direction for F.A.K Songs and Other Struggle Anthems.

When Minnie and Johnson combine their voices with a song such as Girl’s just want to have fun, the result is skilful and amusing. They have a quick costume change half-way through the performance.  The two slip into Springbok shirts and crazy wigs which add to the quirkiness of the show. The Minnie and Johnson Show will make for a good night out with friends. The food is also good and plentiful which makes a trip out to Beefcakes well worth the visit.


Mary and the Conqueror.

First published in the Sunday Independent in October 2011


Imagine spending the greater part of your life writing and obsessing about a long-dead historical figure and then getting the fantastical opportunity to have a discourse with him. This is the basic premise of Juliet Jenkin’s new play which sees Mary Renault, best known for writing historical novels set in Ancient Greece, meet up with the protagonist of many of her works, Alexander the Great.

In the play both have shed their mortal coils, however Mary, played by Diane Wilson, seems to still be chilling out in Limbo, drinking beer, when she meets the object of her life-long fascination, Alexander, performed by Armand Aucamp. The story is a mixture of Mary Renault’s factual life and Juliet Jenkin’s imagination of the possible conversations to be had between the two at such a meeting.

Thrown in the mix is the same sex relationship between Mary and her lover, played by Adrienne Pearce, being played off against that of Alexander and Hephaestion’s relationship. Although Alexander’s homosexuality has often been insinuated at, it is unconfirmed in ancient texts. The writer is engaging us with the hypothetical possibility of his homosexuality. The play is not intended to be factual but rather imaginary.  Mary lived in Camp’s Bay and her novels during the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s became iconic works, especially for homosexuals, dealing as they did, with love and war, their sexuality, and heroism during key periods in the history of Ancient Greece.

The premise sounds interesting and one can only imagine the questions that will be asked and the tales of high drama, love, lust and betrayal that would fly between the one of the world’s finest warriors and an iconic writer. However, this production ended up leaving me rather disappointed. The dialogue, rather than sparkle and crackle, fizzles out and seems lacking in tension and drama. 

Diane Wilson, last seen in her award-winning act of Careful, delivers her usual studied and consummate performance.  However, her given dialogue does not convince me that her character, Renault, has studied Alexander for decades. The passion and excitement of such an imagined meeting is just not there.

Adrienne Pearce playing the part of Renault’s long-term and doting lover injects some life into the play with an excellent performance.  The relationship between the two women comes across as tender and very real as both actresses delicately dance around and with each other.  Pierce’s character suffers from bouts of severe depression and she delivers a very believable performance of a woman suffering the mental anguish of dragging herself out of the darkness for the sake of her own sanity and the love of her life.

Armand Aucamp’s portrayal of one of the world’s most successful commanders of all time – by the age of thirty Alexander had created of one of the largest empires in ancient history – feels somewhat whimsical and lacking in emotional depth.  He struts about the stage in a very tiny pair of white hot pants, which distracts from the dialogue and action on stage. I am not at all convinced that Aucamp’s Alexander can ride his steed into battle, let alone conquer entire countries. His dialogue is lacking in depth and it does not do a great job of painting a vivid or believable character of such a great man.

Francis Chouler in the role of Hephaistion – Alexander’s lover – delivers moments of very sincere acting. He seems to be fully immersed in his role and he is clearly enjoying all the action on stage. There is also a lovely gentle and very tangible good energy which passes between Chouler and Aucamp, which may be further explored. Unfortunately their European accents were not steady throughout the performance and at times it sounded quite fake and even a bit camp.

Alfred Rietmann’s stage design recreates an otherworldly afterlife, or peculiar place of limbo, were Alexander and Renault have most their discussions. Long blue and white drapes, tall columns, and soft strategic lighting add a slightly surreal and fantastical tone to the performance.

Mary and the Conqueror is a commissioned play for the 7th Artscape Spring Drama Season’s and is directed by Roy Sargeant.  The other plays in this year’s Spring Drama Season are The Beneficiary by Sinethemba Twani (20 October to 5 November);  Hol by Nicola Hanekom (10 November to 2 December);  Seashells by Rafiek Mammon (15 November to 3 December) and a showcase performance of Other People’s Lives by Amy Jephta on 16 and 17 December.

The play runs until 15 October at 20:15, with matinee performances at 14:30 on Saturday 8 and 15 October. Tickets at R60.00 and R80.00 and can be booked at Computicket or Artscape Dial-A-Seat, 021-471-7695.

First published in Sunday Independent 5 December 2010

 The very complex nature of human beings and the thin line between love and hate lies at the heart of TEATERteater’s repertory season featuring Art and Woza Andries?  The two plays showcase a spanking hot cast of actors whose faculties and zeal will leave you gasping for more.

Art was written by French playwright, Yazmina Reza, and it won her the Moliére writing award in 1995.  The play is set in Paris and it revolves around three friends and a painting.    When one of the friends buys a perfectly white painting, with only a few white lines in it, for an obscene amount of money, Pandora’s box is tipped over as the three friends challenge their own beliefs and the nature of their friendship.  Marc, played with a calculated coldness by Wessel Pretorius, is disgusted that his friend of 15 years, Serge, played by Wilhelm van der Walt, can display such bad judgement and taste as to spend a fortune on what Marc considers a worthless canvass.  Even more so, he ponders how he himself can be friends with someone who loves such painting. The third friend Yvan played by Christiaan Olwagen, is wrapped in his own cocoon of misery and decides to sit on the fence when it comes to the painting. He is at war with his stepmother, can barely stand his bride to be, and hates his job as a stationary salesman.  His friendship with Marc and Serge was always his fountain of strength and when they go to war over the painting his world starts disintegrating. 

The play simultaneously tackles the meaning of art and beauty, and the meaning, and fibre of our inter-human relationships.  The painting is the key that unlocks years of pent up frustration, misery and suspicion among the three friends.  They verbally tear at each other’s weak spots, and family members, until they have ripped each other apart.  Years of carefully construed lies are exposed in the process and it is certain that their friendship will never be the same again.  

For Marc and Serge the evening’s events brings them somehow closer to each other as they manage to redefine their friendship.   The eccentric and fragile Yvan falls to pieces and is left to rebuild his life with his shrink.  The dialogue is served up like a wicked game of tennis and all three actors give superb performances of their different characters. Marthinus Basson’s direction is focussed and well-paced.  Art makes for a thoroughly engaging production that will appeal to everyone who has ever had a friend or wondered about the nature of art.      

And then there is Woza Andries?  – an absolutely astounding piece of hardcore theatre that  blasts all conventions and popular beliefs right out of the water. The play is loosely based on Woza Albert! by Percy Mtwa, Mbongeni Ngema and Barney Simon, in the sense that both plays feature the coming of Jesus Christ to South Africa. However, where Woza Albert! is set during the Apartheid struggle and its Zeitgeist, Woza Andries? deals with the current climate in South Africa after Apartheid, and its youth who are left to struggle with the consequences of their predecessors’ actions.   

WOZA ANDRIES directed by Christiaan Olwagen FLTR De Klerk Oelofse and Johan Botha 2 (3)


Woza Andries? which was written by Robert Volker, and work-shopped by TEATERteater’s actors with director Christiaan Olwagen, met with critical acclaim at this year’s National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.  Woza Andries? opens with Kelly-Eve Koopman giving a mesmerizing rendition of Bob Dylan’s Times They Are a- Changin’.  Considering our current tenuous political climate, and the general moral regression of our society, Dylan’s words are like salt to our wounds and a powerful introduction to the play’s tone and texture.

Woza Andries? consists of a series of rapid fire vignettes which turns the spotlight on life in contemporary South Africa.   De Klerk Oelofse, Johan Botha and Kelly-Eve Koopman play a variety of characters in the short sketches with much gusto.

It may be wise to mention that religious folk will have to keep in mind that much of the play is satirical in nature and the religious references and portrayal of Jesus’ arrival in South Africa should be seen as such.  The play displays plenty of youthful braveness when dealing with the ultra-sensitive issues. The absurdity of racism is tackled headlong by juxtapositioning white and black murders through a series of shocking sketches whilst the image of a pig is screened behind the stage action. The characters bemoan the fact that there is no white in a rainbow which has ironically become the symbol of our nation.  A white woman is found raped and murdered in the back of her husband’s car.  A black man is dragged behind a car and then fed to lions and so on. It’s an eye for an eye over and over again.  Throughout the sketches I can’t help but think the picture of a pig is inaccurate, as pigs can never be as vengeful and murderous as humans, however the symbolism is clear.

A large part of the play is shown as newsclips with Koopman as the anchorwoman.  De Klerk Oelofse and Johan Botha give brilliant portrayals of the various protagonists of the stories.  As news break of Jesus Christ’s arrival at the airport, a series of South African characters are ‘interviewed’ on how they feel about him coming to our country.  And as may be expected, the reactions vary vastly.  A character based on president Zuma, giggles as he shrieks, “Not only did we get the World Cup but we also get Jesus Christ!” After this comment the news anchorwoman chirps, “Thank you Mr President.  And thank you for contributing to over population.”  And before her words can sink in proper a character that can only be Robert Mugabe offers a beady eye to the interviewer and asks. “Is Jesus Chinese? If he is not, I am not interested’.  A homeless woman typically begs some money from the good lord and so on.   The action rapidly escalates until the anchorwoman interviews the bottoms of the two male actors.  There is a bit of an interesting twist and a violent and vicious scene towards the end that is bound to upset sensitive viewers, but this is the reality of the world that we live in.

Inbetween the shocking sketches the actors also have a lot of fun when they provide much needed comic relief such as when the anchorwoman interrupts a sketch, warning the actors to keep the action relevant as, ‘this is not a Fugard play’.

It is encouraging to see the youth tackle these convoluted issues and they certainly do it with a fresh eye and a fearless attitude.  Both plays will make you break out in a sweat at the levels of honesty and intensity they reach. 

Art and Woza Andries? Is running simultaneously at Cape Town’s Little Theatre, 37 Orange Street, from 24 November- 18 December 2010. 

Visit for more information. To book, call 079 054 6238.

Performance Dates:  24, 30 November/ 2,4,6,8,14,16,18 December 2010.

Time: 8pm, Adults: R80 – Students/Pensioners R40

By Astrid Stark

  Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare 

  Directed by:  Roy Sargeant

  Starring:  Zondwa Njokweni as Juliet, Dean Roberts as Romeo, Sizwe Msutu as Capulet, Chi Mhende as Mrs Capulet, Mdu Kweyama as Tybalt, Diane Wilson as the Nurse, Peter Gilchrist as Friar Laurence, Jeroen Kranenburg as Montague, Clayton Boyd as Mercutio, and a full cast.

At the Artscape until 1 May. ASTRID STARK reviews

First published in the cape Times 22 April 2010

Soccer and Shakespeare are two words that are not often used synonymously.  Director Roy Sargeant has bravely decided to set Romeo and Juliet to a soccer theme and in present-day Cape Town.  The Montagues and the Capulets find themselves playing for two rivalry soccer teams. “What clash raises more contemporary emotions amongst young men today that their support for opposing soccer teams?”  Explains Sargeant “Add to this the possibility that the opposing families live their lives within the murky areas of contemporary Cape Town ganglands and we have a volatile atmosphere that can ignite in a flash such as Shakespeare imagined when he first wrote the play in 1596.”

The opening scene is that of a soccer match between the two rivals and it takes a little moment to adjust to the bizarre setting before Shakespeare’s familiar words soothingly seeps through.  Soon the enthusiastic cast sucks us into their world filled with dangerous desires, teenage angst, domineering parents and ruthless gangster wars.  Mercifully the fans left their vuvuzelas and the beleaguered Zakumi behind. 

Diane Wilson as the Nurse and Zondwa Njokweni as Juliet.

Diane Wilson as the Nurse and Zondwa Njokweni as Juliet.

Alfred Rietmann’s stage design, together with Faheem Bardien’s lighting, is bewitching.  With the use of large metallic frames, clever lighting, screens, and gently fluttering drapes, the stage sets the mood and backdrop for the various scenes.  Juliet’s bedroom is a low sitting bed in-between silver shimmering drapes through which the shadows of the steel frameworks look like window frames.  The good friar’s church is created through the artful use of smoky lights, neon crosses and stained glass visuals.  The set design doesn’t detract from the action on stage but rather enhances the drama and the atmosphere. 

Zondwa Njokweni’s Juliet seems to struggle somewhat to find her voice and confidence during part one.  It’s during the second half that she really shines and that her voice powerfully projects from her tiny body.  Her weeping, as her father tells her that she’s to be married to Paris, played by Lungi Pinda, and her final monologues, are heartbreaking and we really believe in her grief and despair.  The twenty-four year old Njokweni is also a singer and a poet and has performed at Grahamstown and Spier Poetry festivals. Dean Roberts becomes an impassioned Romeo.  His performance is convincing and keeps growing ever stronger as the two lovers are spiralling towards their gory end.  Roberts is not new to Shakespeare; he has played Rosencrantz in Hamlet and Oswald in King Lear.  He has worked as an actor, writer and director both in South Africa and abroad for the last ten years.

As Sargeant says, “This is a young person’s play.  The young people of this world are reckless. The old people are foolish.”  Romeo and Juliet’s love for each other is spontaneous, romantic and ultimately all-consuming.  Their elders are unaware of the impending disaster because they are too busy signing cold contracts that involve money and status rather than love. The cast embrace and exude this in their energetic performances. Dean Roberts’ Romeo and his gang wear tapered jeans with studded belts and t-shirts with the sleeves ripped off.  They are hormone driven, full of juvenile humour and at times bloodthirsty and caddish.  It is a fast-paced, energetic production that had the learners in the audience gasping and giggling.   Cringe-worthy were the crotch-grabbing and lewd hip gyrations that punctuated some of the scenes.  Shakespeare’s words should be enough to convey the strength of the youthful emotions.  Juliet also had two mini-wardrobe malfunctions which had me nervously squirming in my seat. 

Dean Roberts as Romeo and Zondwa Njokweni as Juliet.

Dean Roberts as Romeo and Zondwa Njokweni as Juliet.

Clayton Boyd as the mercurial Mercutio’s performance must be highlighted for being entirely absorbing. He is at one moment belligerent and the next he slips into comic rant.  His drunken antics are funny and convincing.  We are devastated when he is killed.   Chi Mhende as Juliet’s mother makes Shakespeare’s challenging prose flow beautifully. Her delivery is precise and she comes across as in control of her craft.  Diane Wilson’s nurse is dotty, but instantly likeable, if a little over the top. We love that saucy red off-the shoulder ballroom dress with the crisp white trainers.    Peter Gilchrist, for the most part delivers a good performance, however it sounded as if he fumbled some of his lines.  Either that or his voice is just not carrying as strongly as it should. It was sometimes difficult to understand him.  

The play is presented especially for learners and it unapologetically takes its liberties with Shakespeare’s words and actions.  Shakespearean classists might cringe a bit, however Sergeant makes it clear that his first objective here is accessibility and in this respect for me it succeeds. The cell phones, the abridged version of the play, the rappers and the love between a black Juliet and a blond Romeo just works; right up to the point where the two houses are united in grief.  Sargeant’s fast-paced, strong direction and choreography combined with Clayton Boyd’s excellent fight direction makes for a pleasing visual production that even an older generation might enjoy. 
  • There are 10h00, 19h00 and 201h15 time slots on various days.  Tickets at R40.00 per person and can be booked at or  Artscape Dial-a-Seat on 02- 421-7695. Further information can be obtained by contacting Tania Williams-Kaponda 021 – 410 9927 or Charles Banjatwa on 021 – 410 9948.
Kyle Shepherd on piano and Shane Cooper on bass in Afrikaaps pic Aryan Kaganof

Kyle Shepherd on piano and Shane Cooper on bass in Afrikaaps pic Aryan Kaganof

Review:   Afrikaaps

Director:  Catherine Henegan

Cast:  Jitsvinger, Blaq Pearl, Monox, Bliksemstraal, and Emile Jansen, with contributions by Jethro Louw. 

Music:  Kyle Shepherd and Shane Cooper

Review:  Astrid Stark

First published in the Sunday Independent, 18 April 2010

The Baxter Theatre’s latest show is set to raise the hackles of some Afrikaans purists.  It is generally accepted that Afrikaans originated through the interaction between the Dutch settlers, the indigenous people and slaves.  At the end of the South African War in 1902, the British crushed the Boer republics, which played a big role in the creation of Afrikaner nationalism.  In 1948 the ruling National Party took ownership of Afrikaans, in part, with their Apartheid policy, and Afrikaans became synonymous with oppression. 

In the Cape, Dutch was the dominant language for some 150 years, and the other language groups had to learn some form of Dutch in order to communicate, which eventually lead to the creation of Cape Afrikaans.  Some Dutch classicists were not pleased with the use of this Cape Dutch vernacular.  This is by no means the entire story of Afrikaans and the show, Afrikaaps, doesn’t attempt to tell the whole story either but it feels like an endeavour to emancipate the language from her oppression and those who singularly stake claim to her. Today there are roughly 15 million Afrikaans speakers in South Africa, but how many of these people really speak the pure ‘higher’ Afrikaans that is taught at most schools?


Afrikaaps explores the roots and the evolution of the language through a combination of vibrant music, imaginative storytelling, poetry and digital projections.  The show comes across as part live music spectacular, poetry slam session and quirky educational, as the 8 performers tell the story of Afrikaans from its roots to where it is today.  There is also a fair bit of pondering on the future of this language which, despite the greatest efforts of artists to educate on the true diversity of the language, is still wrongly perceived as purely the language of the oppressor. The performance sees the plight of the coloured and Muslim community claiming Afrikaaps as their dialect.  They aim to showcase Afrikaaps as a language on its own rather than the form of slang that has been stereotyped by gangsters.

The frontline performers are Jitsvinger, Blaq Pearl, Moenier Adams, Bliksemstraal and Emile Jansen, with contributions by Jethro Louw who is a township poet, sculptor and Khoisan activist.  Kyle Shepherd and Shane Cooper supply the hauntingly beautiful and evocative accompanying music with piano and double bass.

Moenier Adams, Monox, from Mitchell’s Plain delivers a performance that makes him a young talent to watch out for in future productions.  He has an enigmatic stage persona, and a clear and honest voice which gently slips into your heart.  Adams is also a fireball when it comes to break dancing and he even has a streak of the stand-up comedian in him.  Adams jokes that Afrikaans is a ‘kriewel’ (crawling, or crawling with) language.  He explains that it does not only have a mom and dad, but many parents, and a multitude of grannies and grandpas.  “It’s not a two-faced language. It has many faces,” says Adams.

Quintin Goliath, also known as Jitsvinger, provides comic relief with his lofty figure dressed in a fancy suit made out of newspaper articles, though his moving poems silences the packed auditorium in an instant.  Goliath has performed across Europe and Asia and also with Antjie Krog at the Spier Poetry Exchange.

There’s a lot of informal, and what feels like impromptu, chit-chat between the performers on stage and in between acts.  They rag each others’ accents and thus provide funny and endearing anecdotes and insights into their lives.  At one point the performers jokingly ponders the origin of the click sound;  as in the click sound made when calling a horse, or the sound that a mother will use to show her disapproval at a naughty child. The performers decided among themselves that it is time to take the click back and then laugh as they wonder if the Khoi and San might want royalties for every click sound used.

Bliksemstraal/Lightning Bolt, has incredible break dancing moves.  Bliksemstraal is also a singer, songwriter and poet and he is about to unleash his album Recession. He has performed all across including the world and even at the French World Cup in 2008.  Blaq Pearl and Emile Jansen who are both dedicated activists in their fields make up the rest of the frontline acts.
The very honest and moving performances take place against a multimedia backdrop created by Dylan Valley.   The images shown include African styled pop art and a documentary on Afrikaans with leading figures that speak on the subject.  Yet it is in an interview with school children, shown as part of the documentary, that the Afrikaaps message is most clearly illustrated.  The interviewer asks a primary school learner if Afrikaans is her mother language.  She laughs as she replies that the Afrikaans that she is taught at school is definitely not the language she uses when she communicates with her mother, and yet people insists on calling it her mother tongue.  A young boy is asked what would happen if Afrikaaps is introduced as part of the school syllabus.   He replies without hesitation, “Many more children would pass the subject.”

Whether Afrikaaps is sending purists running for their dictionaries or whether we decide to accept it as part of our evolving future, it would seem that it is gaining a strong following and that it is going to be around for a while.

The End

Starring Nathan Daniels, Reginald S. Manus, Franklin Martin, Denzil M. Williams.
at On Broadway until 24 April. ASTRID STARK reviews
 Published in the Cape Times, 20 April
Tribute show needs a little polish to make it really slick.

When Motown music, with is rhythmic blues and hypnotic pop, started the journey to its Afro zenith in America in the early sixties, anti-apartheid movements began campaigning for cultural boycotts against South Africa.  The state controlled SABC practically had a monopoly on radio broadcasting and the paranoid National Party viewed television as a potential threat to its tight-fisted control of the broadcasting media. When we finally got our first sets in the mid-seventies, organisations such as the British Actors Union, Equity, justifiably boycotted us.  It sometimes feels to me as if we have missed out on an entire era of counter-culture.  Some of us were only introduced to Motown music in the 80’s and 90’s; earlier if you were lucky enough to get a hold of a black market LP.

Back, left to right Denzil M. Williams, Franklin Martin Reginald S  Manus   front Nathan Daniels

Back, left to right Denzil M. Williams, Franklin Martin Reginald S Manus front Nathan Daniels

Four South African guys have bravely decided to take on this very American genre in their Brothers of Soul tribute to bands of the Motown era.  Motown played a key role in the racial integration of popular music and saw the birth of legends such as The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, The Four Tops and Marvin Gaye.  Nathan Daniels, originally a Mechanical Engineer, leads his team through Motown classics by prodigies such as the Temptations, The Trammps, Hot Chocolate and The Isley Brothers.  It can’t be an easy task to emulate legendary songs such as My Girl, Grapevine and the adored This Old Heart of Mine.  For the most part, the foursome do a really good job of it. Motown is soulfull R&B blended with strong flavours of pop and it may use a variety of musical instruments.  However a prominent feature of Motown is the use of distinctive vocals, and this is where Brothers of Souls’ places its biggest emphasis.

The first half of the show appropriately opens with The Temptations’ Get Ready and the guys look spanky in their glittering satin suits. However there is no live band on stage and their background music has been pre-recorded which doesn’t do any justice to their beautiful voices.  The background music sounds metallic and too loud; drowning out the words and more subtle nuances.   It is not until they do an a capella number, Old Man River, that you get to fully appreciate the voices.

The sound problem became less-prominent during the second half. Pappa Was A Rolling Stone, Treat Her Like A Lady and Sexy Thing are all performed with great energy and their synchronised movements are a little cheesy but very enjoyable to watch.  Nathan Daniels has the Motown look down to a fine art. His approach is sexy, with a hint of humour, and loads of Lionel Richie tossed in for good measure. It’s Motown with a modern twist and it feels right.  Daniels has been performing internationally for the last nine years and although his performance feels very polished, it still brims with natural passion.  His voice is soulful and will melt the butter off your toast.   Franklin Martin, who I am told is still an upcoming singer and songwriter, has a silky crooner’s voice and he is quite a pleasure to watch but it seems as if he is still feeling his way around developing his voice’s full potential. He is possibly someone to look out for in the future.  Reginald Manus, who has been performing abroad for the past eight years, and Denzil Williams, take a slight back seat in the performance though both can hold their own when given the opportunity.  Manus’ performance of Love Train stands out as a memorable piece.  Williams had the audience roaring for more when he did his raunchy Barry White voice during The Love I Lost.  Best of all, he did it in a cheeky Cape flats accent, mostly tongue-in- cheek, which went down a treat.   It is refreshing to hear a South African take on an American classic.   By the time the performed Disco Inferno our table was up and dancing which is quite rare for this group of people.

Brother of Soul does not feel like it is pretending to be anything other than a tribute performance and as such, with the exception of the first half’s irritating background situation, does a fair job of an evening’s entertainment. The overall show does feel as if can be a bit more polished if it really wants to be slick. The stage lighting is hardly used at all and with a bit of imagination it could to a lot more to create a soulful, sexy mood. There are no props to speak of apart from a small and lacklustre disco ball.   Their dancing movements are slick and it will be a fun evening out for lovers of Soul, Motown and just generally a crowd that enjoys foot stomping, and clapping to happy love songs.

  • The Show starts at 20h30.  Dinner is served from 18h30. Tickets are R85 per person.  For bookings please call 021 424 1194 or visit the website


Excuse me sir, may I leave? My brain is full…


The belly of the theatre feels as if it’s suffering from a life-threatening fever. The heat is stifling and the over-crowded room is moist with hot breaths and a curious mixture of odours including gentle perfume, freshly smoked cigarettes and perspiration.  We are waiting for the start of Iqonga and it’s great to see so much interested in the Out the Box productions.

Iqonga/Platform is a selection of 8 productions of around 12 minutes each.  It’s a heady experience filled with very brilliant and rather peculiar live performances, multimedia shows, singing , tree climbing and a chicken road kill. 
Just some that stood out…


Brake performed by Andrew Laubscher, nephew of Andre Laubscher (Flowers for my Flesh) – with voice over performance by Ariella Caira features only a double bed and a man with a whiskey glass.  On a screen a slide show of a typical party snaps is being shown – the night degrades into a kind of Great Gatsby debauchery and it ends and with a fight between a man and a woman.  Its feels like a poetic unscrambling of messy relationships fuelled by alcohol, anxious music and sexual desire.   Directed by Tara Louise Notcutt this piece feels sexy, modern and disturbing.


Sonnets 4-16 is an exploration of Shakespeare’s SONNET XXXIII.  This dreamy piece makes you feel as if you’ve fallen through Alice’s rabbit hole and have been transported to a much more beautiful world.

Full many a glorious morning have I seen

 Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye,
 Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy;
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
With ugly rack on his celestial face,
And from the forlorn world his visage hide,

Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace


Then we are all ushered outside and there is a man hanging in a tree. Lynchpin sees Andrew Laubscher in a performance without dialogue (apart from a small radio).  A man lives in a tree only to go down to the ground to get food and water from his various hiding places.  He is alone in his world or the world.  For a few sacred moments he listens on his radio before scrambling up his tree again.

Vrh prsti is a not only short on vowels but it is the turning point where the night’s performances get really weird.   A man, a woman  – a war  -and the search for identity depicted in multimedia madness.  I don’t really ‘get’ any of it but it is delightfully disturbing and screams visual originality.

By the time we are walking out to our second site-specific performance, alive and dying, my head is spinning with all the imagery sounds and concepts thrown at us. It’s like a crazy rollercoaster ride through a tunnel of smarties.  For me, alive and dying, felt like a metaphor of how we devour the things we love by loving it too much – smothering it – then we cry out in regret when we see the corpses at our feet.  Our love for ambition, love for each other, love for power, love for our children. And all the while I kept hearing Oscar Wilde’s poem in my head as I watch a woman on screen kissing a sponge puppet, more and more passionately, until she starts devouring it – entirely:

Yet each man kills the thing he loves

By each let this be heard,

Some do it with a bitter look,

Some with a flattering word,

The coward does it with a kiss,

The brave man with a sword!


Some kill their love when they are young,

And some when they are old;

Some strangle with the hands of Lust,

Some with the hands of Gold:

The kindest use a knife, because

The dead so soon grow cold.

                     -Form the The Ballad Of Reading Gaol – Oscar Wilde

Iqonga is a project of the Creative Exchange at UNIMASA – Out the Box Festival 2010

Iqonga/Platform 2010:
Anne Hirsch – Prisch Productions.
Ditluwana Productions
Francesco Nassimbeni  – /performanceisnow\.
Kai Lossgott
Kim Kerfoot – Instant Arts Collective.
Layla Swart – Spring Productions.
Sanjin Muftic – Yawazzi.
Tara Notcutt – The Pink Couch.

Directed by:  Mandla Mbothwe
Choreography:  Maxwell Xolani Rani
Music by:  Nolufefe Mtshabe
Drummer:  Themba Pondo
Multimedia editor:  Sanjin Muftic
Resident performer:  Faniswa Yisa
Translations:  Thoko Ntshinga
Decor Design: Craig LeoCostume Design: Shiba Sopotela

Lighting Design: Craig Leo

Review:  Astrid Stark

Published in the Cape Times, Tuesday 16 February, ’10 

Thando Doni & Thumeka Mzayiya - photo by Sean Wilson

Director Mandla Mbothwe writes that home, in the African culture, is everything, and it is said that if you don’t know where your home is, that bad luck will follow you.  “Without home you are not protected; not fixed.  You are just a wind.”

Ingcwaba lendoda lise cankwe ndlela means, “the grave of the man is next to the road”, and it is within this context that Mbothwe created one of the most original and stirring performances that I have seen in Cape Town.  The title is taken from this isiXhosa idiomatic expression which suggests that people are always on the road and that the journey home never ends.  Sometime the traveller gives up in the process of searching. Hence his grave is next to the road.

The play explores the stories of the Xhosa people as they migrate to Cape Town in search of work and their perpetual emotional, spiritual, and intellectual journeys.  It is told simply and effectively in IsiXhosa through poetry and songs.  Even though I have lived for a long time in the Eastern Cape, I have forgotten what a poetic and expressive language IsiXhosa is.  And how deeply steeped the Xhosa people are in their very unique traditions.  Mbothwe’s words, translated into English by Thoko Ntshinga, are projected on a large screen and they bubble beautifully like water over stones. In the background is projected a continued filmed perspective of the N2 from the Eastern Cape to Cape Town as seen through a car’s window. The images represent the never-ending journey of mankind in search of belonging and a home. The end result is very stirring and evocative.  A man on the side of the road laments, “I remembered that a man could be punished by his own conscience.  I tasted experiences and consciousness with a heavy sigh.”  If Shakespeare wrote in Xhosa, one can imagine that this is what it would’ve sounded like.

Resident performer of the Magnet Theatre, Faniswa Yisa, leads a team of Magnet Theatre trainees in a powerful performance that makes it near impossible to believe that they are still in training.  The actors are clearly completely immersed in their particular characters.  Their singing is powerful and heartfelt; sincere.  Themba Pondo is the drummer that punctuates the scene changes and his fierce and emotional pounding adds a feeling of high melodrama to the action on stage.

Throughout the play the choreography is tight and pleasing on the eye.  Maxwell Xolani Rani has clearly explored every possible angle and, together with Craig Leo’s lighting effects, he employs his actors and stage props to maximum visual effect.

Luvo Tamba; Mziwandile Nofomele; Themba Nqinileyo; Nandipha Mnyuka - Photo by Sean Wilson 3

During the last 20 minutes of the show, the girl behind me could not stop crying; which kept on setting me off.  A great performance does not always have to make us cry, but Ingcwaba lendoda lise cankwe ndlela reaches deep into our very humanity and stirs up emotions and memories that we have long since repressed.  You must have a heart of stone to remain unmoved by the honesty of the actors and the director.  I suspect it’s a much underrated production.  If you are only going to watch one indigenous language performance this year; then it should be this one.

The performance runs at the Artscape Arena until 20 February.  Normal tickets are R50.  Pensioners and students pay R35 per ticket with valid ID.  Block bookings of groups 10 or more are R35 per ticket.  Learners pay R35 per ticket.  Bookings may be made through

The end.

Every Year, Every Day, I am Walking

Directed by:  Mark Fleishman
Featuring:  Faniswa Yisa and Jennie Reznek
Original Music by:  Neo Muyanga
Choreography:  Ina Wichterich
Set Design:  Julia Anastasopoulos
Lighting Design:  Daniel Galloway
Review:  Astrid Stark

During the second week of February this year a Rwandan-born refugee laid charges against the South African police.  The man, who has lived in Cape Town since the age of nine, says police accosted him on the street and asked for his papers. After being unable to produce the documents he says that police tortured him with stun guns and a cigarette lighter:  on his genitals.  It reminds us of Ernesto Nhamuave who become known as the “burning man” after he was burned alive during the 2008 xenophobic attacks in Johannesburg.  The image of Ernesto on his knees, with a policeman trying to douse the flames, sent shock waves across the world.  Sometimes words just cannot describe the agony of the human condition and, “I am sorry for your pain,” cannot touch those who have been wronged. 

Photo by Mark Wessels

  Every Year, Every Day I am Walking, attempts to address issues of xenophobia, abuse and survival, through powerful imagery, dance and music.   Faniswa Yisa and Jennie Reznek of the Magnet Theatre portrays a mother and daughter whose house is burnt down and their family separated by a violent xenophobic attack.  The pair then has to find their way through treacherous territory and many dangers to the border of South Africa where they hope a new life awaits them.  Upon their arrival at home affairs they are again rejected and abused because they don’t have papers.   It is a difficult and painful story to tell, if it must be done, performance art is one way of getting the message across to all ages and races. 

During the 70 minute performance very little spoken words are used yet it is obvious what the actresses are saying through miming and dance.   A real fire on stage recreates the horror of their home burnt.  A dance with pangas, known to be used in xenophobic attacks, describes the horror of genocide.  Both Yisa and Reznek’s performance and Mark Fleishman’s direction radiates sincerity.  The story is told simply and honestly. 

Tiny dashes of humour, perhaps not quite enough; lift the grave feeling of the show.  A very evocative scene of the two women walking through sand describes the eternal journey of seeking and one’s home and the need to belong.   Neo Muyanga’s original score, as always, is deeply stirring and almost becomes a character of its own in the performance. 

 It is Muyanga’s fifth collaboration with the Magnet Theatre and he seems to be upping his game with every composition.  The production is suitable for ages 13 years old and up.  As a creative therapy for children and an education tool for all it is probably one of the most valuable performances in South African theatre today.    Teaching empathy and understanding to our children is one way of addressing xenophobia and instilling tolerance from a very young age. The performance runs until 12 February and only during the mornings.  The price is R35 and special block booking discounts are available.
Enquiries and bookings: Margie Pankhurst tel. 021 480 7173 or e-mail

Jacques Brel is alive and well and living in Paris.
Direction:  Colin Law and Dean Roberts
Musical Direction:  DuPreez Strauss
Lighting:  Jane Gosnell
Musical Staging:  Trish Mckenna
Cast:  Chrissy Caine, Graham Clarke, David Chevers, Daneel Uys
Bass: Charles Kuhn; Guitars: Wayne Bosch; Percussion: Heinrich Kruse
Review:  Astrid Stark 

First published in the Cape Times, January 2010

Jacques Brel is alive and well and living in Paris is one of South Africa’s longest running musical shows.  Belgian born composer, Jacques Brel, penned most of the lyrics in this production and Mort Shuman translated them from French to English.  The late Taubie Kushlick introduced the material to South African audiences at the Chelsea Theatre in Hillbrow, in a show that ran for over two decades, in various forms.

With Brel’s acidic wit, and brutally honest compositions, he captures imaginations and hearts, and has built himself an enormous fan base.  When you listen to Jacques Brel you just know that that you are listening to a man who has been chewed up and spat out by love- more than once.  By strong contrast he is also a man who embraced life and tasted the sweetest fruits it could offer him. Brel poured his entire soul into his performances.  His is a very tough, if not impossible, act to follow.  So it was with great expectations that I stepped into the NewSpace theatre.  And as with most great expectations; there is often a sense of disappointment following not too far behind. 

Directors Colin Law and Dean Roberts selected British born Chrissy Caine’s rendition of Le Diable as its opening piece, and whilst it is not entirely bad rendition, Caine’s voice sounds forced and her performance is a bit abrasive.  In fact it felt that several of the numbers performed by the four singers were treated as big scale musical numbers, which Jacques Brel is not. His performances were often understated and in cabaret style.  Brel would sometimes whisper, often roar, and sometimes treat a song like a poem; but he would never belt a song out in one range of voice.  The most handsome David Chevers is most guilty of this and it does not always do his voice and the songs justice.  His stage presence is very strong and he is pleasing to the eye. Perhaps with a bit more guidance he can make an interesting contrast to the rest of the cast as a younger, playboy Brel.

Daneel Uys achieves Brel’s style beautifully in her version of the popular tear jerker, Ne Me quitte Pas; and the tears were flowing. She also did an interesting version of the Timid Frieda and she seems to really understand and play with the irony and wit in her songs.

Jane Gosnell’s lighting is mind-blowing during Graham Clarke’s rendition of the Statue, which turns him into a chilling sculpture, which he cleverly enacts with his very expressive face.  Clarke’s solo performance, especially Fanette, feels delightfully dangerous and suitably tortured and in tune with Brel’s intentions.  

Caine comes into her own during her rendition of the beautiful Marieke and The Desperate Ones.  When she sings the lyrics to The Old Folks, “The old folks never die/ They just put down their heads and go to sleep one day/ They hold each other’s hand like children in the dark/ But one will get lost anyway/ And the other will remain just sitting in that room/ Which makes no sound,” I can bet that there was not a dry eye in the house; or at the very least a few large lumps in throats.  The cast as whole shined in their performances of Madeleine and Brussels.  The band, although it is a great to have a live band, were a little distracting at times, and sometimes a little too loud, drowning out the voices. 


Whilst there may be many imperfections in this particular production, I still walked out of the theatre feeling moved and very entertained.  If you are not going to be too picky about perfect Brel impersonations; you will certainly enjoy this evening out.

“In a man’s life there are two important dates:  his birth and his death.  Everything we do in-between is not very important”- Jacques Brel

Jacques Brel is alive and well and living in Paris is on at the NewSpace until 13 February.  Booking is at Computicket and tickets range from R145 each. The show runs nightly at 8pm except Sundays.  Mondays are ‘buy one get one free’ nights. For special group and fundraiser offers Call 021- 422-5522 or 082-5697-660.
The End.