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REVIEW : WHITE MEN WITH WEAPONS (article first published : 1999-04-15)

What else is there to say after having seen White Men with Weapons four times over the past four years? Very little except that it is still one of the finest, in-depth, hard-hitting but humorous one-man shows I have ever seen.

It's won over 17 major awards, toured South Africa, appeared in New York, Belgium, Holland, Perth and Singapore. And it's still as tightly-controlled and impeccably performed as it was the first time I saw it. Very little has changed over the years. Mind you, the opening scene has virtually tripled in length, where Greig proves that the process of making an army bed in a frantic hurry can be turned into a martial art!

Greig Coetzee's powers of observation must have been at an all-time high during his stint in the army because the show is based on the real-life characters he encountered. The only "un-real" character was the delightfully vague and off-the-wall Milton who was removed from White Men With Weapons and became the focal point of his own show, The Blue Period of Milton van der Spuy.

They're all there, the characters we?ve come to know and love - or hate. The doddery chaplain; the foul-mouthed corporal exorting the trainees not to "bugger" the army; the camp cook; the Eastern Cape farmer's son struggling to accept a new South Africa, and the fanatical instructor delivering with fervour the correct use of headgear and when one had - or didn't have - to salute.

The show is a stark reminder of some of the people who made up the old SADF ("even if my mouth is smiling, my eyes is horror") and what the experience must have been like for a conscientious objector forced to become a "rifleless rifleman".

Greig's finest interpretation, however, remains the stuttering dope artist who valiantly aims to tell a (particularly sick) story the way his "chommie" normally "tunes" it and falls about in mad hysterical laughter in the process.

"Dinosaurs" indeed, as Greg calls them.

White Men With Weapons is running in the Playhouse Sanlam Loft until April 25 when it will continue its "Total Onslaught" tour of South Africa which is booked through until the end of the year. Don't miss it.


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