‘Beauty and the Bee' is coming to PMB

2008-10-02 08:05

ANOTHER hit from the Witness Hilton Arts Festival, Ben Voss's Beauty and the BEE, is coming to the Hexagon Theatre from November 14 to 16.

Voss (Green Mamba and Black Mamba) has teamed up with top South African director Janice Honeyman for Beauty and the BEE. In the show, Voss's alter ego, Beauty Ramapelepele, who is a 49-year-old nouveau-riche Houghton mother of two, is in her boudoir shortly after her triumph as South African Businesswoman of the Year.

Ramapelepele is the perfect South African weapon. A black, bright, beautiful and bitchy woman at the top of her business and social game. But life has not always been a New South African fairy tale for this daughter of a maid and a labourer, and her story, as well as the gossip from the current inside track, will be told in the show.

Tickets are R60 (R55 concessions) and the show is at 7.30 pm. To book, phone the theatre at 033 260 5537 or e-mail hexagon@ukzn.ac.za

Margaret von Klemperer asked Ben Voss about Beauty Ramapelepele - and her creator.

Question. You describe Beauty as an alter ego who gives you more freedom to attack your targets. So can we expect to see her again in future shows?

Answer. Beauty is definitely a character I would like to develop and grow. I imagine her coming of age addressing the opening of Parliament or as a celebrity guest at the South African Businesswoman of the Year awards. What I want to do with her is to develop a character who people trust, love and are entertained by. She has to become the audience's best friend. Then I can say things that only best friends can share with each other; things that push the boundaries of decency but are forgiven because the audience and Beauty connect. In 10 years, I would like her to be a part of South Africa's legacy.

Q. As a white man playing a black woman, is there not a danger that white audiences will see the character as merely justifying their worst suspicions? Race is a tricky issue - are you going in boots and all?

A. It is tricky. I had a very racially privileged upbringing. My school had a quota system - 25% of each race (black, coloured, white and Indian). So I am a lot less worried about offending people of different races because I have a strong sense of my own lack of racism. It is the racist who struggles with honesty and openness about other races. But there is a point at which I have no control over an audience's response. My job is to communicate as much as I can with the audience without losing the friendship. It is a tricky tightrope to walk. The fabulous thing about being a 34-year-old white man playing a 50-year-old black woman is that you have two voices. So if I say something about black business, people see the character talking and believe it; if I talk about surfers, they see a young white man and they believe it.

Q. Are there going to be no more Mambas? John van de Ruit [author of Spud and Voss's co-writer and actor in Black and Green Mamba] seems to be concentrating on his writing - is that something you also want to do?

A. I am, at heart, an actor but my passion for writing is growing immensely. I can now classify myself as a writer and an actor. [Voss wrote the script for Beauty and the BEE.] Mamba does continue with James Cunningham and myself. We are relaunching the Sandton Theatre on the Square with a Mamba extravaganza in February and March. We are always trying new sketches and new ideas. John still writes for Mamba but it has become a looser, more experimental, platform for us. And John and I are discussing the writing of a TV sitcom when John finishes his Spud series in a year or two.

Q. Do you update Beauty and the BEE with topical references?

A. Yes, I have written it so that I can keep it current.

Q. Is Beauty mainly satire or comedy?

A. Satire, but you know me. I can never resist a funny line for humour's sake or the odd facial expression.

Q. And after the Hexagon run, what next?

A. I have a big tour. The Sneddon Theatre in Durban in April next year, then at the Heritage Theatre [Hillcrest] later in the year. Then off to Johanesburg for a month and Cape Town in September. Mamba goes to the UK in August.

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