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NOT THE BIG EASY (article first published : 2006-10-29)

Paul Slabolepszy and Bobby Heaney are one of the most respected teams in South African theatre, and now they have worked together again on Slabolepszy's latest one-man comedy - Not the Big Easy - he wrote the piece and also performs it while Heaney is the director.

All the action takes place in one godforsaken spot, out of bounds on a golf course. There are tufts of very long grass and a rock, and Ernie Evans, 50-something weekend golfer, is looking for the fifth ball he has lost in his round. He has written off the other four, but feels the time has come to take a stand. He is not going anywhere until that ball is found. His playing partner has gone, and he is all alone, searching and going over his round, and his life.

Slabolepszy has a remarkably astute ear for South African idiom which he uses in bringing Ernie's story to the stage. Ernie is a philosopher of the golf course and a man whose very existence parallels his game in many ways - straying off the fairway and hitting unforeseen obstacles.

Perhaps more could have been done with this. Usually a master of the poignant, Slabolepszy here downplays the tragedies that have peppered Evans' life. They are mentioned, but not developed to any great extent - Ernie Evans is no Elvis du Pisanie, Slabolepszy's great tragi-comic character. Here he has opted more for a lighthearted approach and is often very funny - never more so than when taking on the cult of getting to know the inner self through motivational events.

Not the Big Easy is in Pietermaritzburg for this run on its way to Johannesburg. Well suited to the time of year when audiences want a bit of light relief from the stresses of year end, and obviously geared to tap into an audience wanting a short, undemanding evening out after a day on the golf course, it is not vintage Paul Slab, but is, as one would expect, both slick and entertaining. - Margaret von Klemperer




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