Bruising my religion

2008-02-01 00:00

In South Africa, rugby is almost a religion, making it the obvious target for any comedian worth his biltong. Next weekend, award-winning comedy actor Thomie Holtzhausen teams up with impresario Francois Vermaak in a hilarious look at rugby and the 2007 World Cup.

Holtzhausen is known as both a more serious actor (with plenty of Shakespeares under his belt) and a performer who readily gets the laughs. Recent performances include Expletive Deleted at the Musho Festival at kwaSuka in January and Athol Fugard's Road to Mecca that opened the new Seabrooke Theatre in May.

Although the Rhumbelow theatre, in Cunningham Avenue off Bartle Road, has up until now concentrated on musical offerings, it is at last veering towards classy comedy and could include mainstream theatre in the longer term, spokesman Roland Stansell hinted after last Friday's superb performance of Bosman's Women.

Like that show, Rugga Buggers is fresh from the Grahamstown Festival. Written by Holtzhausen, it tackles the ins and outs of rugby culture. Both rugby-mad supporters and more sceptical observers will be introduced by a host of behind-the-scenes characters, including a lecturer teaching the audience to become true supporters of the game and a vicar who believes the World Cup results have been predicted in the Afrikaans folk song Sarie Marais. This is apparently just one of the recognisable Afrikaans liedjies that are thrown in - some with “new” lyrics.

As Stansell puts it: “Whether you are a rugby supporter or not, fasten your seatbelts for a joyride of comedy and song. There are no holy cows or safe places to hide. Accurate portrayals of South African stereotypes juxtapose laughs with more serious reflections. Political buffoons and sycophants are ridiculed in this brief look at rugger culture.”

Rugga Buggers is directed by Peter Court. It will be at the Rhumbelow on August 3, 4 and 5. The Friday and Saturday shows start at 8 pm and the Sunday show begins at 6.30 pm. Audiences are encouraged to arrive about 90 minutes early to enjoy a picnic supper beforehand.

• Next on the Rhumbelow bill is Behind the Mask, which stars Rory Rootenberg. The show is scripted and directed by Michelle Simpson and has Ian von Memerty as its musical consultant. Shows are scheduled for August 17, 18 and 19.

Rootenberg starred in the The Phantom of the Opera and offers what Stansell describes as “an unforgettable evening of love and pathos, song and surprise”.

Rootenberg is remembered by Durban audiences for Cadenza and Cadenza X-trav, which he toured nationally in 1999 and 2000. He returns accompanied by Anne Duthie on the piano.

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