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BLACK MAMBA (article first published : 2005-09-21)

Following on the heels of Ben Voss and John van de Ruit’s smash-hit Green Mamba, Black Mamba has gleefully slithered into Kwasuka Theatre after having premiered at the 2005 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown where it was officially the fastest-selling show on the fringe (according to Computicket). Last weekend, it performed to sell-out audiences at the Witness Hilton Arts Festival.

Ben Voss and John van de Ruit once again put in excellent and versatile performances in this show which they co-wrote with Greig Coetzee. Directed by Murray McGibbon, who recently directed Ben and John in Frank&Stein, it has a far stronger bite than Green Mamba but let’s not forget that the black member of the mamba species is far deadlier than the green!

When I reviewed this production in Grahamstown I described it as: “Flamboyantly un-PC with some hilarious and bitingly clever sketches!” …

“We start off with the TV show of the erudite culinary duo – Two Many Cooks. Aided by the help of boxed white wine (aka whine, “made from sour grapes”), they are cooking up a speciality meal. There’s DA Soup, which carries a smattering of black peppercorns “just for decoration” as well as a South Africa Springbok Sporting Sizzler and BEE Chocolate Cake. This sets the tone for this satirical romp down the corridors of all that’s un-politically correct!

As in Green Mamba, the actors take the mickey out of Carte Blanche’s Dereck Watts. This time, he is talking to Richard Rogers of the NOBS organisation and, inevitably, a string of double meanings ensue. The “Minister of Health” also makes her appearance in a very elegant designer outfit complete with feathers and porcupine quills, to forcibly make her point that people aren’t dying of AIDS, they are living with AIDS.

“David Attenborough” makes an appearance to spot the unique activities of a rare species commonly known as a rugby supporter; white-suited television presenters read the News for Whites and the two men watching a rugby game tend to be more involved with home care and personal beautification than the actual score.

In The Missing Link, the competitor must answer the question put to him prior to the current one and the matching questions/answers are hilarious. My favourite sketch sees a computer “virgin” being completely befuddled by a smug salesman spouting computer-speak."

Back to Kwasuka: the Durban set comprises an elegant chrome-trimmed bar with quilted black-leather sides, which is turned at different angles for optimum use. At its side are two modern chrome bar stools. I didn’t notice this in Grahamstown but there are snake patterns winding up the pedestals. The stage is placed on the diagonal and the sides surrounded by aluminium tread plating which gives a very sophisticated look.

Seeing the show for a second time allowed me to concentrate more on the very high standard of the writing as well as the individual performances, taking note of little nuances of character. It also gave me a chance to focus on the extremely funny voice-over in which Lisa Bobbert plays a hysterical housewife and Tim Wells plays a myriad of roles in a variety of accents. One longs for the return of radio drama. Tim’s versatile vocal skills would keep him in business all day!

This is uncompromising satirical humour at its best. Don’t miss it! Black Mamba runs at Kwasuka Theatre until October 16. Book through Computicket or Ben on 083 555 1885. – Caroline Smart




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