Posts in "Theatre"

Fabulous fabulous leads and a whole lot more

Review: West Side Story, Fugard Theatre production at Artscape opera house

Run extended until April 22

In this mad and fast-moving world appetites change constantly, attention spans narrow and it is easy to dismiss things as old or tired. That said, this fabulous pairing of a sensational Maria and a reliable and gorgeous Tony in a grand-scale production of West Side Story is anything but.

Lynelle Kenned as Maria is out of this world. Hers is an absolutely sensational voice that seems to soar ever higher and higher. Even when the whole cast of 40 is singing their hearts out her crystal clear soprano is unmistakable. US-born actor Kevin Hack as Tony, in a role he has performed almost 400 times, provides a powerful balance to her brilliance.

These two alone make the trip to Artscape worth it and you might even get tickets now that the run has been extended to April 22. But don’t muck about: it must end then.

This production of the classic inspired by Romeo and Juliet and set in New York in the Fifties, by Eric Abraham and the Fugard Theatre, blew us away in the winter of 2015.  It is back at Artscape for one final season in South Africa “due to overwhelming demand”. Well, that is what they say (and judging by the full house and standing ovation they might just be telling the truth).

The story is so well-known and borders on the cheesy but an unforgettable score that marries stirring music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (“Something’s Coming”, “Maria”, “I Feel Pretty”, “Tonight”, to name a few ) blows any cynicism away.

High octone dance-fighting scenes between two warring street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, add a helping of excitement and brash big bang thrill.

Go on, take your kids, take your Mum and Dad, take the bridge club or your drinking buddies. There really is something for everyone in this very impressive production with a few absolutely standout performances.

Other principal cast members reprising their roles are Bianca Le Grange as Anita; Stephen Jubber as Riff; Sven-Eric Müller as Diesel; Craig Urbani as Shrank; and Richard Lothian as Officer Krupke. Daniel Richards re-joins the cast as Bernardo and James Borthwick plays Doc.

Matthew Wild is director, Charl-Johan Lingenfelder is musical director and conductor, and Louisa Talbot is the choreographer, with Grant van Ster as resident choreographer.

Last time it was the set that stole my heart …

(full review from August 2015 available here)

I managed to secure some of the last seats at the Artscape Opera House for West Side Story. The balcony was all that was left. I was only a little disappointed, knowing that a seat upstairs gives such a great view of the group pieces, in this case two gangs of hot young dancers play-fighting with choreography by Louisa Talbot under the direction of Matthew Wild. What’s not to like?

Being a little way back also helps me not fall in love with one performer and follow them around the stage to the detriment of the others, in this case, so many others in a large and talented cast of 40.

Blah-di-blah … A fragile balance is upset … Cue hatred and violence … breathtaking, high tempo dance scenes. Blah blah blah (as I said, full review from August 2015 available here)

Seamless mood changes are achieved by deft set changes between cavernous, clunky, concrete landscapes and intimate love scenes on a balcony or in the sewing factory where Maria works.

About my special little stage crush for the night, I will admit to being a bit mechanical here. Lead contenders had to be Maria (Lynelle Kenned), so sweet and winsome until she opened her mouth and filled the auditorium with soaring vocals, and the sexy Anita (Bianca le Grange), who is Bernardo’s girlfriend.

Le Grange, a South African sweetheart of an order I have heard compared with the way America adored Natalie Wood, who played Maria in the original film version of West Side Story, is one of those performers who doesn’t need a spotlight, her performance is already illuminated by her own fiery red circle of hotness.

But this time the crush award went to … [add drumroll here please] … the stage itself: the mechanics of a three-story set being moved seamlessly on and off stage; the lighting – sometimes knock-out sparkly, other times delightfully subtle; the stage that seemed to go on forever. (I really did lean over the balcony to check if they had fitted in more than a few rows of seats downstairs).

Very familiar and completely vreemd

How I wished I didn’t have to read the surtitles in Moedertaal. Whenever I listened to the Afrikaans words spoken by Sandra Prinsloo I understood snatches of a beautiful, lyrical Afrikaans that cannot be translated. When I heard the Afrikaans and saw the translations in English I wanted to shout out: “That is not what she said; it is definitely not what he meant!”

That’s right, I said ‘he’. Hard as it was for me to believe, a man wrote this poignant and intimate story told in a very powerfully feminine voice by Prinsloo, that grande dame of South African theatre. Familiar and vreemd indeed.

Written and directed by Nico Scheepers, Moedertaal is the third instalment in Sandra Prinsloo’s trifecta of one-woman plays that began so beautifully with Die Naaimasjien. Scheepers, who also composed the music, has been described as “one of the most exciting young theatre-makers in this country”. He and Prinsloo make a formidable pair.

Evocative, compelling narrative (even in the translated surtitles … although less so) grabs us from the beginning. ‘Almost-poetry’ that brings to mind and body the feeling of bare, dusty feet as we explore with Nellie her dead uncle’s farm. (The family has moved here after he put a gun into his mouth and pulled the trigger in a tragically familiar narrative.)

We feel the air thick with sticky, plummy smells and a sweet conspiratorial bond as she helps her dad make moonshine from the maroela fruit.

We feel the fire on our skin and our hearts break as the orchard burns down one night. Later, our hearts repaired a little, we are overcome by awkwardness when Nellie meets her life’s love as a teenager.

Their story is three-quarters familiar, populated and coloured in by many versions and vignettes of our white South African stereotypes. The rest of it we watch from a distance, sometimes amused, often horrified. This quarter is the deeply personal, unique happiness and pain that can never be shared, the private journey between two people in love, touched occasionally by a third: a parent, another lover or, most importantly, a child.

As in life, even as each of them is uniquely quirky, there is a certain familiarity to all the misfits, the loners, the nut-jobs … in Afrikaans and in English. We think we know them and fear what they might want from us, so we back off and thank the heavens we didn’t end up like that … although we can remember more than a few moments when things looked to be heading that way.

Moedertaal gives us a tiny flash of how little we know about all the others – their lives, their loves and their losses – even if it looks so familiar that we thought those dusty bare feet were our own for a minute.

Review: Moedertaal, The Fugard Studio Theatre, November 14 to December 2. Performances are Tuesdays to Fridays at 8pm and on Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm. Tickets (R130-R165), available via 021 461 4554 and Computicket

Pop in to the one and only Dias Tavern next door for pre-theatre dinner, best chicken peri peri and calamari in town, booking essential 021 465 7547

Pleasing to the mind, the body and the soul

Andile Ndlovu, Thami Njoko, and Javier Monier in a new ballet by Adele Blank

If it feels too good to be true, it probably is, the saying goes. Too good to be true = couldn’t be better … or could it?

It was certainly dreamy enough watching a wonderfully varied programme of top quality dance at the SAIBC International Ballet Gala at the Artscape recently, with professional dancers from as far afield as Mongolia, Armenia, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt and Mexico. (Patriots need not worry: this international smorgasbord also showcased brilliant South African dancers Angela Malan, Andile Ndlovu and Thami Njoko.)

All this took place at a theatre in downtown Cape Town on a warm, wind-free Saturday evening at the beginning of Spring. So what disrupted the total self-satisfaction and bliss, you might wonder. The discovery that one of the next stops on this tour takes place with the bushveld as the backdrop. Ballet in the Bush at the Legend Golf and Safari Resort in Limpopo on September 9 is a fantasy so perfect that I can’t quite get my head around it.

It would be remiss not to mention the two other performances of this programme at Cambridge Mountain School at Hartbeespoort on September 5 and at the Mosaiek Teatro in Fairland, Johannesburg, on September 7.

Feeling is everything: Angela Malan with Javier Monier and Thami Njoko

But back to my own night of near-perfect bliss at the Artscape. The combination of riveting pas de deux and solos from Giselle, Swan Lake, Paquita and Le Corsaire and neo classical works meant the programme lived up to the promise of being #BalletLikeWeLikeIt, pretty much whomever the ‘we’ was.

The jaw-dropping power and grace of the classic dances together with the mind-bending surrealistic thrill inspired by the shape-shifting neo classical numbers results in a programme that talks to mind, body and soul, young and old, traditional and modern.

Bengingazi, the world premiere of a new piece by South African choreographer Adele Blank, particularly, was the sort of dance that is brand new yet incredibly familiar. It is whatever you want it to be. Feeling is everything; thinking nothing, if at least for those few moments.

Thinking is nothing: Javier Monier, Thami Njoko and Andile Ndlovu

Presented by Dirk Badenhorst, the chief executive and founder of the biennial South African International Ballet Competition (SAIBC), the programme was presented in association with Artscape and supported by South African Tourism. Ballet in the Bush, dance tourism … they seem to be on to something.

Performers included: Maria Rudenko, Artemiy Pyzhov, Monier Javier Jouve,  Anujin Otgontugs, Hassan Eltabie, Mariam Karapetyan, Jonhal Fernandez, Lissi Baez, Dzianis Klimuk, and South Africa’s Angela Malan, Andile Ndlovu and Thami Ngoko.

Book: Computicket. For tickets in Hartbeespoort call Dirk Badenhorst on 083 324 0940, and for ‘Ballet in the Bush’ at Legends email reservations@legendlodges.co.za or call 012 443 6700

Lest we forget …

Cheers to Sarajevo, which is showing at the Alexander Bar until Saturday July 8, is one of those universal stories about people who are not supposed to fall in love. This story about a love affair between a Serbian man and a Bosnian woman during the captured and corrupt times of the Yugoslavian war feels very relevant and personal.
The show about the fine and fragile line between love and hate has us on the edge of our seats. We wince as we see what unfolds when politics goes wrong. We smart as young men and women are set against each other and sent to die in a war created by “old people sitting in coffee shops”.

CheersToSarajevoPIC

Aimee Mica Goldsmith as Mirela and Lamar Bonhomme as Slobo

This hard-hitting drama, written by Aimée Goldsmith and Lidija Marelic, feels very far away and immediately close at the same time. It is perhaps a timely reminder of the hell we in South Africa have managed to escape before … just as we seem to be mucking about on the edge of it again.
Directed by Ashleigh Harvey (Funny Girl), assisted by Sven-Eric Muller (Funny Girl, West Side story, Cabaret). Cheers to Sarajevo stars Stephen Christopher Jubber (West Side Story, Annie), as Peter; Aimee Mica Goldsmith (Warner Bros’ Blended, Othello, Equus) as Mirela; Alistair Moulton Black (King Lear, Sexual Perversity in Chicago) as Aleks; and Lamar Bonhomme (The Crown, High Rollers) as Slobo.
At Alexander Bar daily at 7pm. Tickets cost R80 if booked online https://alexanderbar.co.za/show/Cheers_to_Sarajevo/ or R120 at the door

Artists given licence to disrupt (as if they needed it)

2017 looks like the year disruption will come full circle at Grahamstown’s National Arts Festival, from June 29 to July 9. Last year’s call for proposals urged, challenged, prodded and provoked the original disruptors – artists – to shake things up a bit. We have just a few weeks to wait to see how they responded.

Urging dare devils and disruptors to enter their work for the 2017 festival, incoming executive producer Ashraf Johaardien said last year: “We want to examine how the arts challenges mainstream ways of thinking, its responses to disruptions to the status quo, as well as how it disrupts conventional artistic boundaries and conventions to create new artistic territories.”

‘Do more than think outside of the box … throw away the box…’

Johaardien said he hoped artists would “do more than think outside of the box” when responding to the theme, Art and Disruption.

“For me, this theme asks artists to throw away the box completely. Airbnb has revolutionised travel, Uber has reshaped transport and Netflix has changed the way we digest television. I am hoping we see submissions that do the same for the arts.”

Sounds like a challenge that the bad boys and girls of the arts world would have found irresistible. Roll on June 29!

But before I have a look at this year’s schedule let me take a look back at some of my (kinda disruptive) favourites from the National Arts Festival of 2016:

An ever-speeding descent into madness. Sound familiar?

AnimalFarmAn interpretation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm set in the modern South African context left audiences at the 2016 National Arts Festival struggling for air as they laughed and winced their way through an orgy of greed and corruption.

The show pulls no punches as it documents an ever-speeding descent into madness when the liberated become the oppressors. Hints that this ruling class at war with itself references recent goings on in Parliament in Cape Town builds more and more obviously until we have no doubt about whose “fire pool” we are splashing about in.

One can’t help thinking that some people really do set themselves up to be made fun of. This show capitalises cleverly on South Africa’s surplus of excellent material for satire.

This adaptation was originally created to help South African high school children better understand Animal Farm, a school set work, which should explain why it might, in the words of director Neil Coppen, “sometimes feel a bit 101 to people who are more political”.

Animal_Farm_-_1st_editionLeaving little room for misinterpretation didn’t come across as dumbing down at all, though. Stating what might be obvious to some is brave in a world where things are intentionally kept a bit vague so as to keep all options open.

The cast of five black women morph in and out of masculine and feminine roles and gender often seems to disappear. There are, however, moments when the audience is reminded of the overwhelming masculinity of most of our real-life power players.

The tempo and suspense builds to a crescendo, with all of us hanging to know what happens next…

The story behind the story: also deliciously demented

In her new play, In Bocca Al Lupo, at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, Jemma Khan takes a slight detour from the delicious and demented make-believe world we know her for and tells us a little about her life, and it turns out to be quite delicious and demented too.

Kahn is best known for her two previous shows, the international cult hit The Epicene Butcher and last year’s sellout success, We Didn’t Come To Hell For The Croissants.

She plays all characters in In Bocca Al Lupo herself, employing various cunning tricks and technologies that make it feel like we are watching her interact with others.

JemmaKahnAfter finishing her degree, Kahn tells us, she decided not to follow the well-trodden path of a drama graduate (along the lines of get degree, get agent, develop eating disorder, become estate agent). She has the audience in stitches as she paints a very funny and somewhat scandalous picture of a few horrible, if interesting, years travelling the world and trying to work out what she was going to do with her life.

Bocca Al Lupo translates to Into the mouth of the wolf, which she tells us Italians use as a good luck phrase much the same way as English speakers say Break a leg. Into the mouth of the wolf sounds about right as a description of her time in Japan and Ireland.

If her life is not, in fact, filled with lovable and loving people, she does a very good job of making it look like it is. With the exception of the Speed-guzzling, posh-hating Irish boyfriend, who sounds like he could have done with a good telling off and probably a scrub, her characters are all damn near adorable. Who wouldn’t like a granma called Fufu who helps fund your dreams.

The play has its sad moments (whose life doesn’t?), but mostly this beautifully illustrated tale has us laughing our way around the world. Her use of Kamishibai, a form of Japanese street theatre where a sequence of images are displayed in a frame to help tell stories, is as slick as it is visually pleasing.

A great storyteller telling a great story!

https://www.nationalartsfestival.co.za/

 

 

 

 

Back by popular demand: #FeesMustFall

front-sizwesandisile-back-ameera-conrad-oarabile-ditsele-tankiso-mamabolo-cleo-raatus-sihle-mnqwazana-thando-mangcu-in-the-fall-pic-by-oscar-o-ryan

The relevance of this show is magnified by the intimacy the performers have with the stories. Pic Paul O’Ryan

Back by popular demand! The Fall will be showing at Baxter Golden Arrow Studio from June 8 to 24.

Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Research Chair of Studies in Historical Trauma and Transformation at Stellenbosch University, wrote of The Fall: “With all the images of violence in the media, it can be easy to lose sight of what sustains the journey that began with Rhodes. The Fall takes back the narrative and invites the audience to look beyond the headlines and to see the real human stories. It is a powerfully acted play, a profoundly complex and moving portrait of students’ struggle to free themselves from the burden of the historical legacy they inherited.”

and we said …

#FeesMustFall, #FindTheMoney, October 2016:

What a pity that before assembling a team to look into the cost of higher education – a team that, incidentally, looks better suited to dealing with international espionage – President Jacob Zuma didn’t spend some time this week as a member of an audience at the Baxter Theatre marveling at our country’s young people.

In watching The Fall: All Rhodes Lead To Decolonisation he could have heard firsthand the informed and eloquent arguments of a diverse group of recent UCT graduates who were involved in last year’s seminal #RhodesMustFall protests.

Perhaps we can still hope that one or more of his newly assembled “funding for fees” team – which oddly includes the minister of state security and the minister of defence and military veterans, but excludes the minister of finance – will see the show. It is on until October 29 and seems quite likely to move somewhere else after that.

The relevance of watching this production while universities around the country are exploding with anger and frustration is magnified by the obvious intimacy the performers have with the stories.

The frank, collaborative piece of workshop theatre was devised by the cast, with facilitation from Clare Stopford. Oarabile Ditsele, Tankiso Mamabolo, Sizwesandile Mnisi, Sihle Mnqwazana, Cleo Raatus, Ameera Conrad and Thando Mangcu draw on their own experiences, making for a richly textured depiction of the issues and ideologies present in the movement. The production is directed by Conrad and Mangcu.

oarabile-ditsele-ameera-conrad-sizwesandisile-mnisi-tankiso-mamabolo-cleo-raatus-sihle-mnqwazana-of-the-fall-pic-by-oscar-o-ryan

The Fall: a frank, collaborative piece of workshop theatre devised by the cast. Pic: Oscar O’ Ryan

The subject matter is expanded beyond statues and fees, syllabi and social classifications. Discussions of race, class and gender, patriarchy and sexism are all expanded to what feels like the edges and beyond.

A surprising and subtly handled storyline focuses around Cleo, who identifies outside of the normative gender labels. This narrative relating a personal non-binary experience in a hetero-normative landscape also provokes a challenge to media bias.

Where are all the queer bodies, the trans bodies, Cleo asks. Why aren’t they represented in history or media coverage? After all, no one doubts that they turn up when they are needed, “manning” the barricades when there is a fight to be fought.

The absurdity of racism is laid bare in ways that frequently make the audience wince. Humour provides great (if occasional) relief.

We smile a rather grim smile as we hear about the moment when, as the statue of Cecil John Rhodes is finally being removed, it dangles above the plinth for a moment “as if deciding whether to go, or to fall and crush the black bodies beneath it”.

As much as that moment of removal was invested with much meaning, a moment when, in one performer’s words, the “ancestors’ dignity was restored” it was just a moment, a moment that has passed. The play goes on to unpack how this symbolic moment extended into a series of other pivotal moments.

Moments when dignity is restored are few; much more often it is the opposite.

In one excruciating moment the audience is given some insight into the horror of proving you are poor enough to be given a loan to help with fees. Here, all of the family’s shame must be laid out for all to see, often over and over.

The shame of association is piled on some of us when one of the students talks about a white classmate saying that black people were better suited to working outdoors because of the pigment in their skin. White people, according to this theory, needed to remain indoors … running things, you know, governing and so on.

Those familiar with the preference for shortening “tricky” names turned scarlet when we were told to: “Learn my name!” A second lash of shame was delivered with “like I have learned the names of Tchaikovsky and Dostoyevsky”.

2PoliceChain 1PoliceChainAnd so the struggles – long and short, big and small – continue. #RhodesMustFall, #OutsourcingMustFall, #BladeMustFall, #FeesMustFall.

At the heart of it all lies South Africa’s stalled transformation process. We are left feeling that money must be found to fund this part of decolonisation.

Maybe there is some money in the defence budget? Extra cash in the state security system’s coffers?

Aah I see now … maybe the ministers of state security and defence and military veterans might be able to help after all.

Precious drinking water running down the toilet

As water experts gather for seminars to discuss the Cape’s crisis and pop groups record songs to help people manage the time they spend in the shower, thousands of litres of drinking water continues to run down the toilet.

www.bobtheplumber.co.za

Robert Ince, from Cape Town-based company Bob The Plumber, says there are many small and effective ways that each household can save water. He says his company is delivering flow restrictors to clients and being called out to install some grey water systems, but the public in general is “waking up quite slowly” to what they can do.

It will surprise many, and (please God) shock at least some into action, to hear that flushing the toilet is our second highest use of potable water. That means drinking water is running down the toilet, hundreds of thousands of litres of it.

A simple solution that every household can start implementing immediately is flushing the toilet with grey water at least some of the time. No system or installation is required, the total investment is a plastic bucket, and effort involved is minimal.

A bucket placed in the shower as the water runs to warm up and alongside the person as they shower will collect quite a lot of water even during the recommended two-minute shower. This might raise awareness of how much water is being used per shower and will definitely collect water to be used for DIY flushes.

When the toilet needs a flush some of the contents of the bucket can be poured directly into the bowl to flush it. One doesn’t even have to lift the lid of the cistern. Sometimes the water is slightly soapy but what is the harm in putting some detergent into the toilet.

Ince said flushing the toilet used between 6.5 litres for the modern cistern and 13 litres for the older model of toilet per flush. Imagine if every household in Cape Town used grey water instead of potable water for just a few flushes a day.

There was a time not so long ago when gardeners were using grey water saved like this to keep herb gardens and so on going, but Tokai mother-of-two, Anne Taylor tells us, things are so bad now that most people feel that is too decadent a luxury.

A simple attachment that reroutes water from the washing machine to the garden

Taylor, who described herself as a “water warrior from the Eastern Cape”, recommended a simple small attachment which she fitted to her washing machine outlet pipe that reroutes grey water to her garden. She warns people to get advice on the size of the pipe so as not to damage the machine in any way.

Ince added that attaching a flow restrictor to a showerhead is another very easy way to save water. The restrictors, which are designed to fit “99 percent of shower heads on the market today”, are small devices with a huge impact, he says.

Households that are able to spend a little money to save a lot of water could install a grey water recycling system with a pump, which improves household water use dramatically.

Another smaller intervention suggested by Ince is to get a plumber out to adjust the pressure regulation on the water supply. He said many homes were set to six bars, which meant that a lot of water was just running down the drain, when two bars was normally sufficient.

The City of Cape Town has recommended the implementation of stringent Level 4 water restrictions, which may come into effect from the beginning of June, which would ban all use of municipal water for outside and non-essential use.

Cape Town’s dam levels are critically low with only around 10% of usable water remaining.

– African News Agency

A break from life’s fools, double crossers, wrecking balls …

Perfectly timed chaos: Russel Savadier, Louis Viljoen, Roberto Pombo and Nicole Franco PICTURE Christiaan Kotze

A motley crew of fools, an evil seductress and many a double crosser mucking about, stabbing each other in the back, wrecking the place. Sound familiar? The good news is that this is the theatre: art imitating life, one might say.

That said, The Play That Goes Wrong, showing at the Theatre on the Bay in Camps Bay until June 17, is actually a wonderful, side-splitting break from real life and its clowns and their wrecking balls.

Sticking to the story: Robert Fridjhon and Sive Gubangxa PICTURE Christiaan Kotze

The show starts with an amateur drama society staging a 1920s murder mystery. Everything that could possibly go wrong does and the production quickly descends into absolute chaos.

The audience are frequently weak with laughter but are soon shocked back to their senses by what look like potentially catastrophic near misses. Doors get opened in faces, people fall or get pushed out of windows and violence erupts between the ladies.

There is all manner of chaos as the set collapses around the cast. Somehow the actors doggedly pursue the storyline to the end. But do I remember who killed whom? I haven’t the faintest. It is just too funny to care, even for those (who shall remain nameless) who think they are too serious for slapstick.

This very slick, very funny show is directed by Alan Committie and features a top-notch comedy cast including Roberto Pombo, Nicole Franco, Louis Viljoen, Sive Gubangxa, Robert Fridjhon, Theo Landy, Russel Savadier and Craig Jackson.

If it can go wrong it does PICTURE Christiaan Kotze

The Play That Goes Wrong – part farce, part slapstick, 100 percent hysterical – went on to be a hit globally after winning a number of major awards on the London stage. Even Patsy (Joanna Lumley) loved it: “We laughed until the tears ran down our faces! It has to be seen!”

This South African production comes to Cape Town after a sell out season in Johannesburg.

Mucking about while everything falls apart might sound ominously familiar, but this show really will make you forget about real life for a bit.

– African News Agency (ANA)

Move over Barbs, here’s another fab Funny Girl

Not just funny girls: Ashleigh Harvey is supported by a super talented all-South African cast

If you don’t believe me when I say the Fugard Theatre’s production of Funny Girl, the musical, is better than the movie, you’ll shout ‘Liar, liar, pants on fire!’ when you hear me say Ashleigh Harvey as Fanny Brice is even more Barbra than Streisand.

What can I say … the bitter-sweet musical drama based loosely on the life of Broadway star, film actress and comedienne Fanny Brice, which had its official opening at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town on Wednesday, exceeded expectations … even for this dyed-in-the-wool Streisand fan.

Standing on the original Funny Girl’s shoulders is one thing; filling her shoes entirely another. Try to look past the mind bending, body twisting imagery of filling someone’s shoes while standing on their shoulders and believe me when I say that Naledi nominee Harvey manages to do all of this as Fanny Brice.

Even so, for many of us, this story will forever belong to the original Funny Girl, who starred in the Broadway show that opened in March 1964 at the Winter Garden Theatre.

‘Queen Barbra’ went on to win an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in the 1968 film version. Who knows how much like the real Fanny Brice Harvey’s performance was, she was absolutely marvellous doing Barbra as Fanny.

The showgirl and the gambler: Ashleigh Harvey as Fanny Brice and Clyde Berning as Nick Arnstein

But this is not just a story about the awkwardly gorgeous Fanny’s rise from Brooklyn music hall singer to Broadway star, or even Barbra’s embedding herself in musical history and our hearts performing iconic songs such as “People” and “Don’t Rain On My Parade”.

The real drama is delivered thanks to Fanny’s tempestuous relationship with the handsomest of gamblers, Nick Arnstein, played here by Clyde Berning. He gives a more layered and passionate portrayal of the character that Omar Sharif burnt into the minds of many so effortlessly thanks to his smouldering sexiness.

Fanny and Nick are more than ably supported by an all-South African cast playing the lovable and larger-than-life characters all in rather excellent New York accents.

Just as I pondered if being so damn good at singing and dancing might be the musical equivalent of having looks and brains the six “chorus girls” came on en pointe and performed a flawless mini-ballet.

Fanny’s poker-playing, wise-cracking mother (Kate Normington, front) and her friends provide most of the gags

Fanny’s Mum and her chums seem to fill a bigger space in the stage production than in the movie, providing a large proportions of the laughs.

Kate Normington gives a standout performance as Mrs Brice. Particularly good sound and timing allows the audience to hear every word, meaning that hardly a gag is lost.

Other aspects of the production were super slick, too, with the smoothest switching between scenes and settings. This show makes nonsense of the idea that performing in real life and real time is too limited by the realities of reality.

No surprises that this production reunites the creative team behind the Fugard Theatre’s other hits The Rocky Horror Show, Cabaret and West Side Story: director Matthew Wild, musical director Charl-Johan Lingenfelder and choreographer Louisa Talbot.

Slick service at the Fugard bar

Evenings at the Fugard are ever-more slick, from warm greetings at the door by gentlemen in top hat and tails to the most friendly and efficient bar service in town before and after the show.

Funny Girl – The Musical is based on the book by Isobel Lennart, with music composed by Jule Styne and lyrics written by Bob Merrill. The new production is presented by Eric Abraham and the Fugard Theatre. It runs until June 11.

Suspend disbelief … again, but this time for fun

Marcel Oudejans, host and founder of the club

It was not immediately clear if an inaugural event held at a venue cunningly named Truth on Monday night was a continuation of the global shakeup set in motion when the good people of once-cool Britannia voted to cut their final remaining tie to coolness by ‘Brexiting’.

It was also hard to shake the suspicion that this new weekly event, scheduled to run until March 27, signals the end of civilisation as we know it, even if that is already a disastrously eroded concept thanks to America’s election of the Orange Imposter.

If not exactly a continuation of the scrambling of the current world order, the sold-out launch of the Cape Town Magic Club’s third season, at Truth Coffee in Buitenkant Street in Cape Town, left us amazed and dumbstruck (a little bit like these earlier events), but very very amused and charmed too (nothing like these two other developments).

What these three events have in common, however, is that you just can’t believe what is happening even as it continues to unfold before your eyes. Some things belong in a magic club.

Marcel Oudejans, host and founder of the club, is on and off the stage all evening. He introduces other acts and throws in a few tricks, but mostly puts the spotlight on other performers. The opening night was a taster of quite a few different acts so sometimes we were left longing for more. Other nights will have fewer magicians so each magician, including Marcel, will do longer sets.

Matt Gore, the Ginger Ninja, warmed the audience up nicely with his slightly giggly, self-deprecating Ginger charm and classic, well-executed tricks. He keeps the audience just slightly off guard at all times, fooling around in a way that makes us believe for fleeting moments that we are not just having the wool pulled over our eyes by a well-built ginger Adonis in an exceptionally well-cut suit. Suspicion does linger, however.

Mawonga Gayiya: magic, humour and there’s more

Mawonga Gayiya bounced on to stage next. We were again disarmed and charmed, made to laugh and tricked and tricked and tricked. Comedy and magic, what a lovely combination. And there is more, I was told. Mawonga is working on a plan to take his magic into schools and combine it with motivational speaking to inspire young people. It is hard to think of a better platform to persuade youngsters that anything is possible and, to paraphrase the immortal words of Roald Dahl, If you don’t believe in magic, you just won’t see it.

Who knows what we can expect next? Mawonga Gayiya, the inspiring illusionist perhaps?

007’s ticket

Next up on stage was Brendon Peel, who looks like he is hardly out of long socks and short pants but, boy, does he have a grown up sense of humour. Either this young man is the most extraordinary illusionist or an absolute maths genius. Using numbers randomly chosen by the audience, some of whom admitted to being quite drunk, he turned randomness into the most extraordinary order, giving us mere mortals the slightest glimpse of the beauty of maths … or maybe he just tricked us into thinking he was brilliant. Either way … he is brilliant.

Who knows what to believe on Monday nights at Truth. He also told us that Brendon Peel, his magician name, is also his porn name. I know it works, but is it true? Who knows.

Hypnotised … or just chilling PIC Andrew Gorman

Next up Alan Marriott was also concerned with the truth, but his way of divining it was a little bit of hypnosis and a lot of mind reading. Or was it? Was it true? Could he have? How did he trick us? Did America just elect Donald Trump? Enough said.

Marriott’s act was more convincing for me than it might normally have been (and at least a little more alarming) because my partner was his chosen “volunteer”. She looked totally hypnotised for a while, although she insists she was just chilling and following instructions. I am not convinced. One thing is for sure, though, this was no set-up.

Andrew ‘Magic Man’ Eland: the slickest sleight-of-hand

The night ended on a real high with Andrew ‘Magic Man’ Eland, the consummate showman. His many years at the top of the game were very much in evidence as he delivered illusion after illusion at very high tempo. Many of his tricks are highly-polished versions of old favourites with coins and cards. They are delivered one after another at high speed with a big helping of charm. This is the slickest sleight-of-hand you will see and it is hard not to ask him to do it just one more time …

But that is what next week is for and the week after. There are different acts on every Monday night until March 27, each night will feature fewer acts but a bit more of each.

Truth Coffee in Buitenkant Street, which has been rather famously been named the best coffee shop in the world by some erstwhile kings of cool, is supposed to be dedicated to truth. But, the world is on its head, as we know. Stand on the sidelines feeling overwhelmed by it all or jump on the merry-go-round of fun and fantasy.

The venue, like the show, is all high-class magic.

Ticket Giveaway: Call Off The Search has two tickets to next week’s show, at 7pm on Monday 23 January, to give away. All you have to do to win is write to capocassidy@gmail.com and tell us why we should give them to you (rather than use them ourselves) in 200 words or less or a picture (worth a 1000 words after all).

More info and tickets at https://www.magic.capetown/

– African News Agency (ANA)