Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Laubscher’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I cannot think of a better way to bring in the Year of the Dragon, than with Shakespeare’s farcical quick-witted comedy at Maynardville Open Air Theatre. At the opening of their new show, The Comedy of Errors, last Saturday, we were welcomed by rows of scarlet Chinese lanterns that lit up the path, vibrant paper dragons, and an array of other colourful Chinese New Year decorations, which fitted in perfectly with their 1970’s Kung Fu Cinema styled production. They had everything from panda’s with swagger (Oscar Sanders), multi-coloured merchants with serious ninja skills, eccentric schoolmasters (Gabriel Marchand), to a giddy, bubble-blowing harajuku girl (Jenny Stead). What more could one ask for? Well, what about a tale of two pairs of identical twins, separated at birth by a tragic shipwreck, whom unwittingly find themselves in the same city years later? Oh, yes.

This, as I’m sure you can imagine, unleashes a series of uproarious misunderstandings, farcical contortions and several cases of mistaken identities, with absolute hilarious consequences! In order for director Matthew Wild to create a modern-day “Ephesus” setting in which the foreign characters can sense an atmosphere of danger, mystery and enchantment – a mercantile city, where profit and trade are high on the residents’ daily agenda, he had consider many different factors. Drawing inspiration from films such as Enter the Dragon, it was decided upon a type of Never Never Land “Chinatown” setting, composed of irrelevant Asian clichés, signs and symbols, that would create the perfect atmosphere in which the tale could unfold. The genre of the classic 1970’s Hong Kong martial arts films, according to Wild, in which the tone may very rapidly switch from romance, to slapstick, to genuine danger, with this style of dramatic language and fight sequences, may be “the source of elegant, balletic comedy” and “a treasure-trove of vividly imagined, exotic locales”.

Despite being one of the earliest (and shortest) of Shakespeare’s plays, it has retained its popularity with audiences, having been frequently adapted to suit our ever-changing modern society. A great deal of the play’s humour revolves around the beating of servants, a potentially bleak source of amusement for modern-day audiences. Many directors have had to tackle the repeated comic beatings of the bondsmen and other servants in this play, and one way of doing so was by looking back to commedia dell’arte and slapstick-type physical comedy such as that of Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers. That being said, the physical interaction between the Antipholus twins and their bondsmen, Dromio, were lighthearted and enjoyably comical.

The play opens with Egeon(played by Stephen Jennings), father of the Antipholus twins, and his whopper of a monologue. Even the sharpest-eared audience members would be likely to miss the vital moment of clarification about the heartbreaking separation of the young twins & their reason for them ending up with identical names, but not this audience. Oh, no. Thanks to a clever director, the aid of skilfully handled visual stimuli were used to illustrate exactly what transpired that fateful day and made it so much easier for us, the audience, to follow the story from there on in. And so the comedy of errors ensues. The locals constantly confuse the visiting twins for the native twins – even Antipholus of Ephesus’s wife Adriana and her sister Luciana are easily fooled. All the confusion results in Antipholus of Ephesus (the native twin) being arrested for debt and declared mad, while Atipholus of Syracuse (the visiting twin) takes refuge from his brother’s enraged wife in a nunnery – where the abbess turns out to be Egeon’s long lost wife and the twins’ mother.

There were some superb performances by Nicholas Pauling, who played the very confused visiting Antipholus of Syracuse, along with the well-known and loved comedian Rob van Vuuren, who played his equally bewildered servant Dromio. The native Antipholus, Andrew Laubscher and his loyal bondsman, James Cairns. The leading ladies were just as captivating, especially Sonia Esgueira, who played the part of Adriana, Antipholus’ wife, and dared the stage with 6 inch heels! The poor visiting Dromio found himself unknowingly married to a lusty lady, which he himself described as a “mountain of flesh” (hysterically played by the talented Chi Mhende). With the aid of cleverly designed twin outfits with only subtle colour differences, so we could tell the two pairs of twins apart, this performance was well thought out, colourful in every sense of the word and roll-on-the-floor-laughing funny. Every detail was carefully considered, even down to the little female DJ in the roof that just gave it that cherry-on-top *KAPOW* effect.

Maynardville truly outdid themselves once again. Four and a half stamps of approval — well worth a night out at the theatre! There are still shows available until the 18th of February. Perfect for a Valentine’s cuddle under the stars.

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.