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NEON ANTHEMS FLYING COMEDY SHOW (article first published : 2005-06-3)

Having seen Liam Magner and Jacobus van Heerden - Neon Anthems - give a short excerpt from their forthcoming show at the two successful Kwasuka Theatre benefit galas, I was highly intrigued to see them make their official professional stage debut in The Neon Anthems Flying Comedy Show which opened this evening at Catalina.

The rapport between the two is almost tangible and they work extremely well as a team. In high school they discovered their mutual passion for music and theatre and before long were creating their own comic sketches and songs. They have been performing together as The Neon Anthems for the last five years and it was their appearance at one of Catalina’s Blue Monday Platforms that impressed director Themi Venturas to the point that he booked them to do their own show.

There are some fairly outrageous and hard-hitting moments but they are handled with such aplomb that they breeze past without causing offence. Even the sequences where either character leaves the stage armed with an erotic magazine on the flimsy excuse that they need to “tune their instruments” are amusing rather than iffy.

The stage setting is attractive with a circular theme. Starting off at the dawn of time, two apelike beings/cavemen reach out and touch each other. Then the scenes tumble over each other as they take on some delightful characters, sing or generally indulge in nonsensical patter. The show is very physical with much energetic action. Oh yes, and there’s a brown wig that pops up everywhere. In the midst of all the highly amusing chaos and mayhem, there is a story line, believe it or not! It’s about Neon Anthems. Well, always wise to debut in a new show which deals with a subject you know best.

Neon Anthems are just beginning to rise to fame after a booking from the national broadcaster. Touching on this, I enjoyed the fact that the caller always identified the wrong person answering the phone - neat and slick and almost over before you catch it! However, success is momentary as the SABC hates their show and fires them but then calls them back to perform at the last broadcast as nuclear war breaks out.

The second part of the show mirrors the opening of the first – only this time, there are no beautiful bush sounds and the naivete of simple characters. The men are themselves and surrounded by death and destruction. But it seems they have a mission to save the world from chaos and before long they have rigged up a mode of transport which takes them to unexpected destinations.

The two actors are at their best when they are telling a story such as the delightful Tokoloshe Come and Tokoloshe Go. They are joined in the second half by ace guitarist Gary Thomas who is not averse to doing a bit of characterisation himself!

Some niggles. The stage is too underlit in the beginning. I was in the second row and could just make out the actors but the people further back would have missed out on some lovely actions and expressions. While full of fun and innovative gags, the process of the Time Machine is a bit cumbersome and could be tightened.

The Neon Anthems Flying Comedy Show runs at Catalina Theatre until June 19 with performances Tuesday to Saturday at 20h00 (Sundays at 18h00). Tickets R60 (R50 concessions - students with student cards and OAPs). There are specials of Two-for- the-price-of-One from May 31 to June 5 and every Sunday and Tuesday thereafter. Bookings through Thandeka on 031 305 6889. Caroline Smart




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