6 July 2012

South Africa: An Hour of Marico Magic

Photo: Cue
Student sharp-shooters

This delight is exactly as described in the Festival programme: "Bosman for the next generation". As the names of Patrick Mynhardt and Percy Sieff, both formidable interpreters of Bosman and his chief narrator, Oom Schalk Lourens, fade from the collective memory, others have found new ways to pay tribute to one of South Africa's finest teller of tales.

Herman Charles Bosman who, although he spent less than a year in the Groot Marico district, is best remembered for his stories set in that community.

Nicky Rebelo and David Butler are at the Festival with their new Bosman production, Jurie Steyn's Post Office, while The Pink Couch reprises its 2011 success, the hilarious Mafeking Road.

Short, hirsute Mathew Lewis is an ideal contrast to tall Andrew Laubscher, sporting his Bernarda haircut (i.e. bald - see him tonight in that dance production, he's extraordinary). Using only their bodies, no props at all, these two performers create an hour of Marico magic.

Director Tara Notcutt and her actors retell classic stories such as Willem Prinsloo's Peach Brandy, The Love Potion and A Bekkersdal Marathon, famously performed by Mynhardt, now a four-part serial.

Laubscher's facial contortions as the nodding-off dominee in the last-named are a wonder to watch. Beyond rubbery. Occasionally, the pair break out of their performance to discuss a point or argue or provide a chunk of contextual information. They do it just right. Although the movements of both actors are disciplined and precise, there's no sense of "look, Ma, we're doing physical theatre". Having seen Steven Cohen's often profound but very, very slow theatre-but-not-theatre-no-this-is-performance-art-piece, Cradle of Humankind the previous evening, I was grateful for Mafeking Road.

The competition between Schalk Lourens and Fritz Pretorius for the favours of Grieta Prinsloo in Willem Prinsloo's Peach Brandy is lots of fun - the effects of Prinsloo's powerful brew are suitably slo-mo'd!

In the Withaak's Shade, the story that Oom Schalk Lourens tells of waking up to find a leopard staring at him, is as inventively performed as the rest, with some deliberately anachronistic devices such as SABC television updates on "the leopard situation in the Groot Marico".

However, the downbeat Bosman denouement didn't really work for me.

Surprisingly the audience seemed not to get the punchline of A Bekkersdal Marathon. In fact, the sizable crowd, largely made up of schoolgirls, seemed strangely subdued. I, though, haven't laughed as much in ages. Go! I hope you will too.

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