SA theatre alive and well

2010-07-24 16:01

Nipple Caps and G-Strings

The name says it all, doesn’t it? And to make it crystal clear, it’s a revue being staged at the ­Victory Theatre, which is owned by Hustler publisher Joe Theron and stars Lollipop Lounge ­manager and dancer Gigi.

If your brain has just become flooded with images of nudity and explicit sex, you are not alone. According to Theron, ­perception is what the theatre world is all about.

He says: “People tend to think that if you publish Hustler ­magazine, that’s the type of stuff you read all the time. I don’t.”

Theron, as controversial a ­figure as the late strip king Lolly Jackson, is facing a highly ­publicised battle to keep the ­Victory Theatre after it didn’t ­receive a single bid on auction last week.

The theatre is R32 million in the red and facing ­bankruptcy.

The home of Umoja for the past three years, the Houghton Estate-based theatre has ­welcomed Deon Opperman’s ­Nipple Caps and G-Strings, ­hoping to put more bums on its 460 seats.

Gigi, who shot to fame on the recent Survivor South Africa, ­uses the 90-minute show to extol the virtues of the stripping ­industry.

She slowly chips away at the audience’s notions about the show, exotic dancing, sex and relationships, while relieving ­herself of her shimmery gold outfit.

For an ageing stripper, Gigi certainly looks good. And she’s funny.

She can make you laugh at a crude joke without feeling self-conscious.

She touches on subjects that we feel comfortable talking about only with our best gal pals over a few cocktails.

Her warm and fun demeanour takes the edge off and the sense of a close-to-the-bone, uncomfortable night out vanishes thanks to her accessibility.

Theron says: “We are bringing in shows of commercial value in order to keep things going at the theatre. And we will continue to do so. We are already in talks for a new risqué show.”

This begs the question of the viability of keeping the foot-stomping, drum-beating Umoja at the Victory Theatre.

But Theron shuns the notion of South African audiences ­moving towards more suggestive theatre.

He says: “The commercial ­value of a show like Nipple Caps and G-Strings is very high, there is an added value to it ­because it runs for a shorter ­period.

“This kind of theatre has to do with bums on seats, people ­buying merchandise and tickets flying. But it doesn’t mean the end of the likes of Umoja.”

»  Nipple Caps and G-Strings is ­currently on at the Victory Theatre and runs until August 14

Eastern excellence

There’s something fascinating about the Chinese and their obsessive dedication to ­perfection. It’s easy to see that vast swathes of this ­nation want everything they touch to turn to gold; including their inimitable entertaining format.

The Le Grand Cirque Fantazie, which opened at the Joburg Theatre last Friday, is a perfect example of their devotion to perfecting any craft to which they set their minds.

This dazzling extravaganza exists of close on two hours of jaw-dropping stunts made possible by ­supple-beyond-belief limbs with psychedelic lighting effects and bizarre outfits.

The comic relief between takes, courtesy of a multi­-talented mime, is a welcome breather for the audience from the constant “ooohing” and ­“ahhing”.

This follow-up to the Le Grand Cirque phenomenon sees a cast of more than 50 top-notch world champion acrobats and aerialists ­performing breathtaking contortions, balancing acts, dance routines, precision skills and an array of stunts accompanied by frenzied classical compositions with throbbing rhythms.

Some of the stunts include a bicycle ride for 12, a contortionist balancing burning ­candelabras on all four limbs and her forehead, a ballerina with equilibrium to ­challenge Newtonian Law and men who can carry each other’s weight using their neck muscles.

It’s mesmerising family entertainment that makes for a great night out and will leave the kids amazed enough to keep them still throughout the show.

During its four-week run, Le Grand Cirque Fantazie will also be performing morning matinees for school groups followed by a short Q&A session with the cast.

»  Le Grand Cirque Fantazie will run at the Mandela Joburg Theatre until August 8. Book at Computicket

Cosi’s witty

The Mechanicals is a passionate group of actors, directors and ­designers who have revived Cape Town repertory theatre – ­passionately.

Their latest season kicked off with a scintillating production of Louis Nowra’s 1992 Australian play, Cosi, which was later made into a successful film.

They are known for performing works that have meaning, but don’t think this means dull.

On the contrary.

Cosi concerns a group of mental patients attempting to mount a production of the opera Cosi Fan Tutte, even though none of them can sing or speak Italian.

The journey to this end is hilarious – without being slapstick. Much like having a blade slipped between your ribs while you are laughing.

The ensemble cast is marvellous, milking the sharp dialogue for all it’s worth, even though some of the Australian accents slither around alarmingly.

Guy De Lancey plays manic depressive Roy superbly like a mildly camp Geoffrey Rush, referring to himself as an ex-lady killer, literally, having murdered his mother.

Deborah Vierya as Cherry, has a voice like a nail scratching on glass, very effective, if somewhat overplayed.

Adrian Collins as the withdrawn Henry, who blossoms like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, is a revelation.

» Cosi is on at the Little Theatre, Orange Street, Cape Town, until the end of July. The other plays in the season, until the end of August are Mephisto, Highway Crossing and Endgame

Sistahs take charge

South Africans spend a lot of time waiting. We waited decades for democracy and now millions still wait for houses and justice.

This waiting is the name of the game in the superbly entertaining play And the Girls in Their Sunday Dresses, which is treading the boards at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg after enchanting and enriching audiences across the country.

Adapted for the stage from a Zakes Mda short story, this comedy with a stinging message, represents true sistah power: it is directed by Princess Mhlongo and stars Lesego Motsepe (Isidingo) and Hlengiwe Lushaba (Gaz’Lam). Not only that – the lighting, stage, costumes and set designers are women.

They carefully construct a story that is seemingly simple, but – through rich metaphor and symbolism – speaks volumes about how the silent masses will take only so much, and no more.

It could be seen as protest theatre in that it serves as a timeless and valuable lesson to any government at any time.

Two women wait in a queue for government-subsidised rice.

Motsepe – a far cry from her glamorous soapie character, Letti Matabane – plays The Woman, a humble domestic servant who, it emerges, radiates simple, straightforward wisdom.

Lushaba – the 2006 Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance – is The Lady, a brassy, ageing prostitute. She may think she is worldly-wise, but she is naïve in many ways.

Alternating between high comedy and high drama, this play is about individuals – and broader society – seizing control of their lives, standing up against injustice and staging their own revolution, be it in the household, the country or simply in the rice queue.

» And the Girls in Their Sunday Dresses is on at the Market Theatre in Newtown, Johannesburg, until ­August 22. Book at Computicket

Top class

What, you may ask, is the relevance of a show that pays tribute to two blokes who gave their last live show together in 1967?

Director Alan Swerdlow and his stars, Jonathan Roxmouth and Louis Zurnamer, answer that question within minutes.

With a clever local twist here and there, Swerdlow has made a collection of songs that have been moth-balled for decades ­into a contemporary piece of fun and nonsense that will leave you humming about the gasman, a glass of Madeira and a Gnu.

From the late 1940s until the late 1960s Michael Flanders provided the lyrics to Donald Swann’s compositions, a partnership that created a two-man ­revue called At the Drop of a Hat and another, At the Drop of Another Hat.

Which brings us to Hats Off! The incredibly talented Roxmouth, who is a mere 23 years old, carries this production from silly hat to absurd fascinator with aplomb and a song.

His ­co-star Zurnamer is happy to ­allow Roxmouth to shine while tinkering with the ivories and adding the odd hilarious aside.

While swapping a top hat for a fez and a makarapa for a trilby, the duo recreate Flanders and Swann’s songs for a new generation in the intimate Studio Theatre at Montecasino with ­little more than a collection that would make a milliner envious, a piano, a plush chair and a drinks tray.

The songs might be written for a different time but many retain their relevance – the exasperation we all feel when we have workmen at home, the lechery of old men when it comes to tipsy young women and the reality that hippos do indeed love mud is a universal truth ­acknowledged here with heaps of humour.

For those in search of smart yet in-tune theatre, Hats Off! is a hugely satisfying, ridiculously funny night out.

» Hats Off! is on at The Studio Theatre at Montecasino until August 1. Call 011 511 1988 to book

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