Ha-ha-llelujah

2012-01-21 00:00

WHEN comedians take on the subject of religion it can often be a double-edged sword – but Durban North actor Aaron McIlroy skilfully manages to make you laugh without denigrating God in his one-man show, The Happy Clapper, which will be staged at the Hilton College Theatre from January 26 to January 29.

Using three alter-egos – a rabbi­, a Bluff surfer and one of his favourite characters, Veejay — he takes the audience on a journey through the Old and New Testaments, before taking a look at the evangelical Christian world.

Asked to describe the show in a nutshell, he says: “The Happy Clapper aims to share with the community what Christians believe and why, through invigorating doses of comedy. We’re not saying it is simple, but rather it is real and it’s worth considering.”

The first half of The Happy Clapper opens with a run through the Old Testament, courtesy­ of Rabbi Lipschitz, who has some interesting thoughts on the Bible. The actor then morphs into Bluff inhabitant Gary van Vuuren, a surfer and fundi at unlocking all matters pertaining to the New Testament.

“Van Vuuren’s the perfect example of fools rushing in where angels fear to tread,” says McIlroy. “Only, he cracks it more often than he knows. Just when you think he’s heading for the rocks, he nails it right in the centre.”

In the second half McIlroy dons his Veejay persona to offer a guiding hand on how to negotiate your way around the potential hazards of traversing the evangelical Christian world, commenting on taboos like sex, booze and money.

Co-written and directed by Patrick Kenny, The Happy Clapper­ speaks as much to those who follow other beliefs, as it does to members of the Christian faith, offering a broad range of perspectives that aim to enlighten and entertain, while treating religious matters in a robust if tongue-in-cheek light.

That said, McIlroy, a Catholic by birth who walked away from church life for many years, is the first to admit that the show is a challenge. “There is always a risk of insulting a whole swathe of people — especially those who like religious ritual. They may find it jarring, but the response so far has been great,” he says.

He also hopes, through the show, to open channels of communication around the issue of religion. “My hope is to use my skills to tell a story which will, at least, encourage people to re- examine­ the whole issue. When I started, my father said it wasn’t good manners to talk about religion, but if you don’t talk about anything meaningful, what’s the point. You can’t avoid certain things just because there is a danger that someone might be offended.

“It’s important, however, that people understand that I’m not laughing at God. I wouldn’t do a show that did that — that would be like inviting someone into your home and then assaulting them with dogma. In Happy Clapper we’re simply having a bit of fun, so, I hope people will attend and that, even though the subject matter is serious, they’ll leave having had a really good laugh.”

McIlroy, who just completed a successful run with his most recent show, @Work, at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, is hoping that the Hilton run of The Happy Clapper will be the start of a nationwide tour. “My children are at school and in a routine, and while it’s hard when both parents are working and you don’t want to be away a lot, I am planning to try to tour once a year. I want take the show to different cities and towns, places like Empangeni, Richards Bay and Newcastle,” he says.

With just three performances of The Happy Clapper at Hilton College, early booking is advised. Performances are at 7.30 pm on January 26 and January 28 and at 2 pm on January 29. Tickets are R85 (public) and R60 (teachers and pupils) at 033 383 0126. Alternatively e-mail tickets@hiltoncol lege.com

AARON McIlroy is one of South Africa’s most popular entertainers, with a string of stage blockbusters under his belt. These include The Loser, Mr Personality, My Cousin Brother, The Stand-Up, DOF, The Golfer, Unplucked, @Work and The Happy Clapper.

McIlroy also starred as Mr Milton in Spud – the Movie alongside John Cleese, and played the role of the dentist in KickStArt Theatre Company’s musical, Little Shop of Horrors.

With his wife, actress Lisa Bobbert, he has staged Defending the Planet, The Revenge of the Pink Panties, Sex Bugs And Rock ’n Roll, Belly Laughs, Reality Bites and the tribute to the Swedish super group, Abbamaniacs. McIlroy received the Durban Theatre Awards’ Personality of the Year Award in 2007.

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