Last Friday evening, I was kept on the edge of both my seat (and snorting with laughter) by another quirky escapade at the Intimate Theatre. This gripping journey led me down Mafeking Road, where some of Herman Charles Bosman’s well-loved stories can be relived and enjoyed by today’s generation.

The 60 min jam-packed joyride, presented by The Pink Couch at the The Intimate Theatre in Cape Town, won the Standard Bank Silver Ovation Award for Physical Theatre at the National Arts Festival 2011, in Grahamstown. The talented Andrew Laubscher (from Lovborg’s  Women, and  Is  it  because  I’m  Jack?) and Mathew Lewis (Lenny  and  the  Wasteland) are skillfully directed by Tara Notcutt (director of …miskien; Dream, Brother; and Thom Pain) to bring you four colourful tales of Oom Bosman, such as In The Withaak’s Shade, and Willem Prinsloo’s Peach Brandy in a brand-spanking  new, fresh, and creative way with complete unadulterated wit!

From opposite sides of the small, dark theatre, two humorless men size each other up, and then slowly walked towards each other, with tension mounting with every step – and then, well, it all dissolves into what can only be described as awe-inspiring silliness. Once again I was gob smacked by the utter professionalism of this tiny theatre, its crew, the lighting and the top quality acting from the Thespians centre stage.

Mafeking Road is physical theatre at its finest. Far from just an experiment in mime, it welcomes you into a world of imagination, perfect timing and offbeat humour. The pair whirls through a variety of characters who call the Groot Marico home. Their unwavering pace, physical stamina, and perfect characterization made it easy for us as an audience to remain devoted to their story throughout. Tara’s fine handiwork is apparent in the incredible accuracy & timing of every gesture, accent, and facial expression.

Even with the black box styled theatre and simple denim jeans and white shirt costumes, they embodied every distinctive character with absolute charm and effect; from Bertie, the panicky horse, the seducing beauty, fresh out of finishing school, dreamy-eyed Schalk in Willem Prinsloo’s Peach Brandy, the drunken congregant and altar-wine-fetcher, getting progressively more intoxicated as the service went on, to the mother, youngster and deaf granny at the “kerk diens” from hell, that just would not end. While the stage remained empty, they painted the scenery of a “koppie” in the veld so vividly with subtle sound effects and hand movement; I could literally smell the soft sand and African heat in the air.

In this truly physically demanding production, Tara made sure they used every inch of their bodies, right down to their incredibly expressive fingers, and yet everything was done with such spectacular ease and conviction that we, the audience, had no alternative but to allow ourselves to be swallowed up by it all. Mafeking Road is the perfect length for such a riveting, physical and fast-paced production too. It’s so much fun to watch and I only noticed afterwards how sore my cheeks and tummy muscles were  from laughing so much!

The Pink Couch came onto the theatre scene with the goal of making theatre cool again for young people. It was started by Tara Notcutt, Mathew Lewis, Gideon Lombard and Albert Pretorius, and this year they welcomed James MacGregor to take a seat on the couch. Dedicated to making brave, original, and sexy South African theatre, they aim to present new or existing work in a fresh way that reaches out to a younger and bilingual audience. Not only making some noise at the 2011 National Arts Festival, Grahamstown with the hit, …miskien, and the brand new Mafeking  Road, The Pink Couch also joined up with Jon Keevy to take up the reins of the fabulous curated venue, Cape  Town  Edge, which was heard to have made some noise of its own.

From Cape Town to Stellenbosch, to Grahamstown, to Potchefstroom, The Pink Couch is making its mark on the national theatre scene. The two-year old company has already seen some great successes, among them a Fleur du Cap and two Silver Standard Bank Ovation Awards and the Clover Soveel Beter prize for Best Production at Aardklop 2011. It has now made its company-debut on the international stage, with …miskien being invited to the Amsterdam Fringe Festival, where it received a 5 star review, as well as a Jury Commendation, making it one of the Top 8 shows of 80 at the festival.

Overall, Mafeking Road is clearly much more potent than the love juice of the juba berry, and will give my heart happy flutters everytime I think back on it. I hope to see many more such original and youthful productions from Tara and her team in the near future. Well done guys! Four stamps of approval on the Tish-o-meter.


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