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CHRONICLES OF A CAR GUARD (article first published : 2007-09-21)

I first saw Lisa Bobbert’s new show, Chronicles of a Car Guard, at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in July and was impressed by its potential. At the recent Witness Hilton Arts Festival, tickets for her show were much in demand and it’s easy to see why. The production is now tighter, smoother and the mood changes flow more comfortably into each other.

Delphine (Lisa – dressed in crisp khaki shirt and flapping trousers) hastens to tell you that just because she’s a car guard doesn’t mean she’s a beggar. She’s also clean – and she’s not referring to personal hygiene but to the fact that she doesn’t smoke, drink or take drugs. Okay, she has “a coupla sugar problems so she loses it a bit occasionally” but otherwise, she’s very together. She takes her job as a car guard seriously and the play is presented under the guise of a conference at which Delphine has been asked to speak.

Delphine’s introduction to us starts off in a haphazard fashion – trying to communicate with the owner of one of the vehicles in her care, she is instructed to leave by the stage technician who she promptly puts right. Hugely apologetic for inconveniencing the audience and nervous about her presentation, she grabs some papers and laboriously presents the notes she has made. She instructs us on aspects of car guard duty that may have escaped us. Touching on the verbal abuse often directed at her colleagues, she explains that she got used to this kind of thing at an early age as her father wasn’t exactly politeness itself. One of the most telling lines of the play is Delphine’s response to her teacher’s complaint about her marks: “Are we talking about the marks on the paper or the marks on my body?”

She talks of her two daughters – from two different fathers - of whom she is very proud and we catch a glimpse of her reticence to embarrass her beloved Nicole one evening when the party she was with drove into the parking lot Delphine was guarding. She just winked at her daughter and informed the unsuspecting other members of the group that she’d take special care of their vehicle.

Delphine has now discovered that she has cancer and for the first time in her life, she’s fighting back - vigorously and sensibly. No longer “seeing from behind the wrong eyes”, she’s getting her world in order, making sure that what little assets she has will be properly distributed by her good friend Jerry who she shares shifts with at the Royal Natal Yacht Club. She also proudly boasts that she will have an impressive Zulu funeral in the Drakensberg where she will be buried, courtesy of her long-time friend Mrs Khumalo. A video clip offers an amusing diversion where Durban Diva Pinkie Mtshali performs in full gospel mode with a group of line dancers dressed in car guard waistcoats.

Lisa is one of the finest actresses we have in Durban and this play – showing her devoid of glamour, elegant costumes and high heels – proves this point. She sings – without too much performance embellishment – songs like a send-up of Rhinestone Cowboy (Rhinestone Carguard), Teach Your Children Well; I’ve Never Been to Me, Wonderful World and Hey, Lady. As she closes the show as Nicole playing tribute to her mother, there were very few dry eyes in the audience.

I still think the production could do with more visual appeal in terms of props but, generally, there are some beautiful and quite heartrending moments in this piece of theatre. In the end it’s all about sincerity … and survival. You’ll never look at a car guard with the same eyes again!

Written and directed by Susan Monteregge, Chronicles of a Car Guard runs at Kwasuka Theatre in Greyville until October 7 with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 20h00 (Sundays at 18h00). Tickets R70 booked on 031 305 6889 or online at strictlytickets@telkomsa.net – Caroline Smart




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