Stages, saints and sinners: Comics whose Bosman stories make the audience laugh uproariously

2011-07-06 08:27

A trio of theatre companies from the Mother City – Cape Town Edge and FTH:K and Conspiracy of Clowns – are telling stories in innovative ways.

Mafeking Road reworks Herman Charles Bosman for a new generation – the sharply observant, satirical and subversive storyteller would have loved to watch the two young men, Andrew Laubscher and Matthew Lewis, in this production freshen up his stories for a new generation.

Oom Schalk Lourens is up to all sorts of nonsense – seeing leopards and sharing tree-shade with one, helping a fellow Groot Marico resident get a declaration of love from his shy amor.

Then there’s the peach brandy incident and the unforgettable church service with the 176-verse hymn.

Most South Africans are familiar with Bosman’s work and this play is a welcome addition to the stage works previously inspired by his works.
 
Laubscher and Lewis use their bodies to tell the stories, walking their fingers down their arms when a long walk is on the cards; drawing the veld with their fingers and sound effects to set the scene; and sometimes arguing among themselves about how something should be done – in this way cleverly giving clues to the audience to help them navigate the no-verbal bits.

Though this helping hand was just enough and was hardly needed as everyone – from teen to veteran – laughed uproariously throughout.

The production also brings in familiar cues – one story is told in episodes like a soap opera – and the drawing of the settings with their fingers and the sound effects trick the imagination into picturing all sorts of things that aren’t there and brings to mind film, a medium that is more familiar to many. A sign of a really good theatre piece.

Another exciting piece of theatre is the new creation from FTH:K and Conspiracy of Clowns. Directed by Rob Murray, this non-verbal, masked performance is wonderful.

I have only seen one other piece of this company’s work – as I am always in Joburg when they are performing in Cape Town. What a relevation.

FTH:K’s slogan is Listen With Your Eyes and they work with deaf performers and make theatre that can be accessed by those who can’t hear as well as those who can.

Benchmarks is about three characters brought together and then tragically torn apart. There’s the home affairs clerk, the elderly widow and the young Zimbabwean immigrant.

The three’s lives intersect as one kindness leads to another, but their touching human interaction is cut short by death and crime.

Benchmarks takes on the spectre of xenophobia, something that does need to be put back at the top of the political and social agenda.

This story, told by performers in full mask, has no words and no facial expressions to tell it, is about enriching our lives through difference.

Which is a theme that is running through the festival this year and one that the company prides itself on.

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