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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

THE INCREDIBLE BEER SHOW (article first published : 2005-10-7)

This wacky one man show is brought to Durban by actor Gaetan Schmid, who I have not seen before but would happily see again. His Belgian accent is most fetching and adds considerable charm to the show, which has been subtitled "the history of mankind as seen through a beer glass", and indeed it starts 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia (the present Iran and Iraq) where fermented grain was, according to him, discovered by the accidental dropping of grain into water and its subsequent fermentation.

He is proudly Belgian - the stage has a statue of Manikin Pis on a beer barrel plus a larger barrel on which are a bottle of beer, naturally, an opener and a glass. There is nothing else but a framed picture of a pipe as a backdrop. The action unfolds, fairly logically over the next millennia to the present time through the Middle Ages, the Industrial Revolution and the two World Wars and covers mainly the various countries in Europe, the British Isles and the two Americas. The monks, and indeed Christianity, figure prominently at one stage of his history of beer.

The monologue is saved from being monotonous by his use of mime and movement, as well as constant small digressions and asides but he never loses his train of thought, a plus in a stand-up comic routine and he stresses that this is not an audience participation show, another plus in my book. A further big plus to me is that he refrains from using a certain four letter word which too many stand-up comedians use far, far too frequently and, I think, to give them a chance to consider what they are about to say next. He only used it once besides in a certain anecdote which was very much in context. This impresses me.

He also describes how beer is made - I loved his comment "if it feels good it doesn't have to taste good" - and mentions many names of some really way-out obscure beers. The show is performed with a fifteen minute interval but he could happily have gone on for considerably longer as far as I was concerned, a very good move - always leave the audience wanting more. The Incredible Beer Show might not be everyone's cup of tea but it is focused and enjoyable and Gaetan Schmid is a performer of note. His timing is spot on.

This highly-acclaimed irreverent nod to the history of the world through beer making and swilling has reputably taken all the festivals in South Africa by storm.

The Beer Show runs at the Catalina Theatre until October 23 nightly at 20h00 except Monday (Sundays at 18h00). Tickets R60 (R50 pensioners and students). To book call Liesl or Janice on 031 305 6889. For block booking discounts and charity fund raisers call Glenda on 031 305 7612. - Maurice Kort




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