Guards and monster

2008-10-02 08:05

YOU walk out of the Broadway shopping centre in Durban North to see a car guard leaning on your nice clean car, chatting on her cellphone. What do you do? You glare at her and advance, ready for battle.

What you don't see is top Durban photographer Val Adamson standing at the other end of the car park with a long lens on her camera, focusing on your “guard” - who is actually Lisa Bobbert, star of Confessions of a Car Guard. The two are working on a publicity shoot for the show. Then Bobbert energetically waves another car out of a bay, and turns round with glee to show Adamson the R5 she has just scored.

It's the end of a process that started with Bobbert spending a day with real car guards at Wilson's Wharf, hearing their stories. “They are actually very nice - some have hit hard times, some do it because they like the nomadic life. One told me he's happy, getting enough money for his smokes and a couple of dops and R10 for the shelter,” says Bobbert. Another white woman, who guards part time, has a black child she looks after. One night, 11 years ago, a prostitute asked her to look after her baby for the night - and never came back. Some stories were moving, some funny, and they gave Bobbert an insight into the varied lives of the guards. The show premiered in Grahamstown to considerable acclaim, and now goes to the Witness Hilton Arts festival before a run at the Kwasuka - hence the publicity shoot.

Confessions of a Car Guard is a one-woman show, telling the life story of Delphine. “She's had such a raw deal,” says Bobbert, regaling me with the disasters that have befallen her character. The show is billed as a comedy, but, as Bobbert talks, often in character, it begins to sound more and more like a tragedy.

I remember what Hilton Festival organiser Sue Clarence told me after she saw the show in Grahamstown. “I went in, expecting to laugh all the way through, and came out crying.”

The funny and the poignant are very closely linked, and it sounds as if Bobbert blends them together with a performance that will make you chuckle - and weep. In Grahamstown, people came backstage to congratulate Bobbert, in tears. “It was so cool,” she says cheerfully.

And it's not all gloom. Delphine has a wonderful capacity to look on the bright side. The character first made a brief appearance in Defending the Planet, where Bobbert performed along with her husband and partner in Macbob Productions, Aaron McIlroy. Then she was talking about an alien - who had failed to tip when she guarded his spaceship. Delphine was a huge hit, and Bobbert kept being asked to bring her back. So she eventually approached Sue Monteregge, who wrote Defending the Planet, to give Delphine another outing. Monteregge was delighted, and has written and directed the show.

Delphine sings in Confessions of a Car Guard - Country and Western music is her favourite. It is a big change from Bobbert's role in the hugely successful Playhouse production of My Fair Lady last year, where she alternated the role of Eliza with Carol Trench, and fulfilled one of her childhood dreams.

“Standing on that stage and seeing the audience stand up for us - my heart felt it wanted to explode with joy,” she says. “I really had a sense I was living my purpose.”

Bobbert is originally a Jo'burg girl. She came to KZN in 1990 to work at the Loft Theatre with Nicholas Ellenbogen and Murray McGibbon, where she met and married McIlroy who was also in the company. The two work well together, both onstage and at home - Bobbert says he is the disciplinarian when it comes to their three kids, while she is the softie. Maybe there is something of Delphine there.

•Confessions of a Car Guard will have two performances at the Witness Hilton Arts Festival, at 4 pm on both the Saturday and Sunday, September 15 and 16. It will then have a season at the Kwasuka Theatre, from September 18 to October 7.

The Witness Hilton Arts Festival

THE Witness Hilton Arts Festival runs from September 14 to 16 at Hilton College, with a mouthwatering collection of shows ranging from Mike van Graan and Zapiro's collaboration Bafana Republic, to Jutro, hailed as this year's “must see” on the Grahamstown Festival Fringe. There is also a full Fringe programme, with shows from the Savannah Theatre Project in the United States; music, a murder mystery, comedy and satire. Music Revival has put together a series of 12 concerts: jazz, classical guitar and music by Brahms, Mozart and Shostakovich, among others.

And for those feeling cerebral, there is a Thinkfest programme of talks, workshops and films. Interested in bread making, erotic Greek poetry or a debate on what makes satire? It's all there, along with exhibitions and a full craft market.

The full programme and booking kit is available from selected Spar shops and Midlands outlets, or from www.artslink.co.za/hilton

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