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GREEN MAMBA AT KWASUKA (article first published : 2004-05-20)

When John van der Ruit and Ben Voss first presented their hilarious two-man show, Green Mamba at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in July 2002, I don’t believe they imagined what a success the production would become. The Grahamstown premiere was followed by performances nationwide and several return seasons in KZN. The show was honoured at both the Durban Theatre Awards and the Gauteng Naledi Theatre Awards in 2003.

Directed by multi-award winning Greig Coetzee, Green Mamba is presenting its third and final season in Durban at Kwasuka Theatre as part of its second major Southern African tour. The 200th performance will be celebrated with a gala evening at this intimate venue which offers a perfect environment for the madcap series of sketches.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge in South Africa since the show first premiered in Grahamstown in 2002 and I was a little concerned that some of the material would be passè by now. However, audience reponse proved me wrong. Sadly, the crime rate lampooned in a sketch à la the weather forecast is still as high as it was two years ago; politicians are still as verbose and tunnel-visioned, and Derek Watts still plays to the camera in Carte Blanche.

The 30 second sketches of Big Brother require audiences to backtrack down the historical road of the mindless reality television show genre but some of the sketches have been brought up to date with gleeful surgical precision and nothing is sacred! The SA personality “Disgrace Stakes” horse race won, not surprisingly, by Robert Mugabe - and the final song cycle are hilarious.

You know you’re in for a fun evening when an amusing voiceover starts the show, sending up the multiple choice phone answer systems.

With excellent comedy timing - and improved singing ability – the two actors romp through their programme. This time around, I was barely six feet away from them so was able to observe their performances close-hand. Ben Vos continues to impress with his versatility and I particularly enjoyed his doddery twitching-fingered Earl Grey character and his Minister of Security. John van de Ruit could work as a stand-in for David Attenborough any day and his microphone use in the Nando chicken ad sketch is masterly. He was a delight as the young man canvassed by a worldly-wise insurance salesman as was Ben as the “hostess” in a Toyota Hi-Ace taxi headed for Johannesburg.

My favourite is still the car guard sketch where one Lincoln Hatchback (Ben), a top car guarder, addresses a convention aided by much hype from the presenter (John). You’ll never connect with a car guard again without remembering this piece!

Green Mamba runs at Kwasuka Theatre until June 19. Book at Computicket. If you want a highly entertaining evening at the theatre, don’t miss this one! - Caroline Smart

John van der Ruit and Ben Voss have started writing “Black Mamba” which is expected to hit local stages next year. More information on “Green Mamba” and Thunderdog Productions at www.thunderdog.co.za




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