A
 
Web www.artsmart.co.za
A R T S M A R T
arts news from kwazulu-natal

drama
www.artsmart.co.za
enquiries@artsmart.co.za
 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
 

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

DEATH OF ROBERT KIRBY (article first published : 2007-02-12)

Highly acclaimed satirist and playwright Robert Kirby died in Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town on February 9.

His death followed complications which developed after a heart operation he underwent four months ago. Since that time he had suffered from serious ill health.

One of South Africa’s best-known playwrights, Robert Kirby’s output of writing was considerable through his plays, sketches, columns and articles. At the time of his death he was a weekly columnist for the Mail & Guardian.

His column –Loose Cannon - on 07 January 2007 which can been seen in the Mail & Guardian online was titled New Year Revolutions. Despite his illness, his wit was as sharp as ever as he discussed his suggestions as what the government “might find beneficial to its continued good health.”

He suggested that “Parliamentarians seriously need to consider shedding not only the kilos but also the perception of being coddled fat-cats. Flaunting the trappings of power will not, in the long run, maintain the undying loyalty of voters. … Eliminating outrageously expensive parties to celebrate inconsequential achievements, ridding oneself of fancy cars, Armani suits or R5,000 pairs of shoes would go some way in regaining trust. And jettison the idea of yet another expensive Boeing. If MPs have to travel, they should book with our national carrier. And if they’re still too stout to find the cramped seating comfortable, postpone the trip until goal weight is achieved.”

And another biting salvo: “Heeding advice, no matter whence it comes, is essential. Begin to hear what you should and not what you want to hear. In other words, beware the toadies.”

It was in the days of the old ’67 restaurant in Aliwal Street, that my husband (Peter Gardner) and I first met the tall, rangy Robert Kirby. My husband has a particularly loud and distinctive laugh, known by all Durban performers who welcome it in comedy productions but rather alarming to performers from out of town. Robert’s response to this laugh was immediate and inimitable – “Good heavens, I’ve never played to a performing seal before!”

We formed a companionable friendship over the years although we never saw each other that often. He was extremely generous in allowing us to do some of his sketches free of royalties in a production we put together for the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in 1986. We called it Kirby Gripped and still consider his Horse Race a la Hamlet one of our favourite pieces.

For a time, we even had his “brain” (an electrically operated prop from one of his plays) housed in our garage as well as a vast painting – also used in the same production which he couldn’t take home on the plane with him – which took up most of the sitting room wall.

The last time I spoke to him was at the 2006 Grahamstown Festival when I phoned him after seeing his show The Secret Letters of Jan van Riebeeck which he had written based on a publication in 1992 of a set of entirely imaginary letters by Van Riebeeck. (See review on artSMart Festival archive pages) The play was performed by Robin Smith and Robert eagerly asked me to see if the production couldn’t tour to KZN.

Well, Robert, I’ve put the word out now and hopefully something will come of it. We’ll miss your incredibly sharp brain, articulate tongue, staccato delivery and delicious laugh as well as your passion for whatever you did. Our thoughts go to his wife Dulcie. He will leave a big void. – Caroline Smart

If you want to be reminded of the Kirby wit go to www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/r/robertkirb279461.html




 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
a co-production by caroline smart services and .durbanet. site credits
copyright © subsists in this page. all rights reserved. [ edit ] copyright details  artsmart