Music, dance and laughter

2008-07-01 00:00

THE Von Memertys — A Celebration is the title of a new life-affirming evening of musical theatre featuring Ian von Memerty and his family. The show will be at the Hellenic Hall in Durban North from today for a week.

Captain Entertainment himself —aka Ian von Memerty — and his wife Vivienne, a former South African Latin ballroom champion, have delighted audiences over the past 18 years in all kinds of shows on stage and television, and Ian currently appears as the host of Strictly Come Dancing. Their new show started life as An Evening with Ian and Viv, but, says Ian, their children Oskar (13) and Kasvia (8) watched their parents rehearse and decided they wanted to join in. And so they have.

“When I was touring with Rory Rootenberg, Oskar and Kasvia came on and did a number — and stole the show. I realised that if we structured things carefully, so as not to overexpose them, or overdo it, it could work. Oskar has a very special talent, and Kasvia can sing beautifully.” And so — despite jokes about the Von Trapps — a show was born. Ian says that as Vivienne’s talents are for dancing, not singing, he has to be both Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.

It is more than 10 years since the family’s struggle to save their first two children who both had a serious genetic illness, MPS6 — a struggle that captured the country’s attention. Sadly, their older daughter, Valeska, died despite a bone marrow transplant, but Oskar survived. When I ask Ian how he is now, he says that, while he is the size of a five-year-old, and will never be able to live an entirely normal life, he is at a mainstream school and has a social life.

“If it wasn’t for the transplant, he would now be grossly disfigured and we would be counting down to his death,” says his father. It would be a far cry from performing on stage with his parents and sister.

Ian, who has won numerous awards for his work, both as a performer and as a scriptwriter and producer, says that often the most successful shows are “based on really bad ideas”.

“I mean — two men on stage with two pianos for two hours! But that was A Handful of Keys. And although this one can sound really silly, it’s the way it is structured and presented that will make it work.”

Recently, the Von Memertys have moved down to the Eastern Cape, and live on a smallholding outside Port Elizabeth. “I’m a farmer’s boy, and I suddenly realised that all I need for my work is to be based near a good airport,” he says. “So we said, let’s try it. And now I have four hectares — and chickens.” And the family is loving it.

The show celebrates relationships — Ian’s relationship with music and the piano (Bohemian Rhapsody, Music Medley and The Simple Life), the relationship between Ian and Viv (Sway, Lady In Red and Kiss) and the relationships of family and laughter (Old MacDonald Swings, Viv, The Sound of Music gets Gumboots and Gingham).

Booking for the show The Von Memertys — A Celebration is at 082 499 8636 or e-mail Tickets are R200 per person which includes a three-course meal and the show. Times are 7 pm (for dinner with the show at 8.30 pm) Tuesday to Saturday and 1.30 pm on Sunday, with the show at 3 pm. This is a Rhumbelow Theatre project being hosted by the Hellenic Hall.

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