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

NOT THE BIG EASY (article first published : 2007-07-19)

Some 45 odd years ago, way back in the mists of time and memory, my father tried to teach me to play golf. This was on the Limuru Country Club Golf Course, close to where we lived which was some distance from Nairobi. Unfortunately, my association with the game was not a positive one and my father eventually gave up, opting to protect his good standing as a club member rather than see the greens being mutilated by an overzealous teenager with a wild, uncoordinated swing.

Just opened at the Catalina Theatre on Wilson’s Wharf, Paul Slabolepszy gives us a clever, amusing and at times utterly hilarious take on the game of golf in his one-man show Not the Big Easy. After staggering on with his golf bag to the strains of the aptly chosen opening music, O Fortuna!, he takes us through the frustrations and irritations of this game which is supposed to lower blood pressure and aid relaxation. Even if you don’t know much about the game (I still don’t!), you’ll enjoy the show to the full. If you do know your woods from your irons, then you’ll appreciate it even more!

The stage is set with a couple of clumps of grass and a convenient couple of rocks to sit on. The ball has been lost – and it’s not the first one today. Defeating the law of aerodynamics, it’s nowhere to be found and this prompts Ernie Evans to vent some pent-up emotion, not all of it concentrated on the game. He’s decided that he’s had it – reached the stage of “so far, no further”! Does he continue his fruitless search for the ball or carry on with his game and quietly doctor his score card? Likening his score card to a battlefield casualty list, he considers giving up the game altogether and taking up bowls.

He amiably meanders through golfing stories, personal incidents and his own philosophy of life while bemoaning hazards such as bulrushes, quipping that at least Moses scored there – he got Egypt! His only consolation is that somewhere on the planet, there is possibly someone who is playing worse than he is. His golf bag carries a multitude of golf aids – from a hip flask to a book he found on a sale written in 1930’s in which he discovers some delightful ways to put your partner off his stroke. However, he considers that the modern day vuvuzela works just as well!

There is a hilarious section when Ernie chats about playing on a golf course in the Phalaborwa district with a partner who was more than a little inebriated. Not even a herd of elephants disturbed his boozy equilibrium.

Not the Big Easy provides an evening of clever and relaxing entertainment, watching one of South Africa’s masters of comedy present his skills, slipping easily in and out of moods and moving comfortably from slapstick to sensitivity. He also does a very amusing David Attenborough send-up and you’ll never hear Shakespeare’s King Lear’s “Howl!” speech again without thinking of Ernie Evan’s belief that Lear is out on a golf course looking for his ball!

The Durban season is, of course, laden with poignancy as Paul’s comedy alter ego, much-loved actor Bill Flynn, died suddenly last week, leaving the theatre industry shocked and bereft. Director Bobby Heaney and Paul have dedicated the Durban season to the memory of their great friend and colleague who will be well remembered for his inimitable portrayal of Tjokkie in Heel Against the Head and Running Riot, amid a host of many and varied productions over the years. It seems almost inconceivable to think of Paul Slabolepszy without Bill Flynn but at least we have their joint work entrenched in published scripts and on film, so the legacy will live on.

Not The Big Easy runs until August 3 from Tuesday until Saturday at 20h00 (Sundays at 18h00). Tickets R65 (R55 students and pensioners) with Buy One Get One Free nights on Sundays. Parental Guidance 13. Bookings through Thandeka on 031 305 6889. Tickets available online at www.strictlytickets.co.za or www.catalinatheatre.co.za or www.goingplaces.co.za - Don’t miss it. – Caroline Smart




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