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

BAFANA REPUBLIC (article first published : 2007-10-5)

As I mentioned in my review of Bafana Republic when it appeared at the Hilton Festival (see Festival pages), I know precious little about soccer but this didn’t stop me enjoying every minute of Mike van Graan’s new play, a one-woman show featuring the endearing, sexy, sassy, and extremely versatile Lindiwe Matshikiza.

I make no excuses for repeating my Hilton review as the same comments still apply. At the Catalina Theatre, where Bafana Republic is currently running for most of October, the show works a lot better as it offers a more intimate atmosphere. As a member of the audience in a theatre that doubles as a conference venue, you really do feel part of the overseas tourist group on which Mike van Graan has based his structure of the play.

His distinctive swift, rapier-slashing satirical humour and no-holds-barred broadsides at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, various politicians or sport personalities in the limelight makes for a fast-moving show that is sometimes analytical, often outrageous but always entertaining.

Bafana Republic is told through the eyes of a tour guide – one Marthina van Schalkwyk, the epitome of corporate efficiency in a neat pin-striped suit. As the show opens, she presents a series of placards which place us in a future in which we are to believe that Jacob Zuma is now in the presidential seat. Marthina then proceeds to morph into a rapid-fire selection of no less than nine characters, ranging from a news commentator, a soccer manager’s assistant from Brazil or the ditsy Chardonnay to a group of nervous wannabee pop stars in the Bafana Idols!

In the Bafana Idols, each individual character was meticulously drawn with their own nervous response to the ordeal of the audition. The most hilarious audition number was a riotous send-up of Jacob Zuma’s much-hyped wary cry – although, instead of a shotgun, the singer laments the need for a washing machine (to clean the sheets after the much-publicised sex exploit)!

Lindiwe has an excellent command of accents and her characters are achieved with subtlety and accuracy. The gags come thick and fast and if you aren’t careful, you might just miss some of Mike van Graan’s succinct throwaway lines.

This is material that could become didactic and confrontational if not handled properly. Director Lara Bye has produced just the right touch, zipping over the hot coals, as it were, like a dragon fly and then slamming the sting home like a wasp. The barest minimum of costume changes or body language – jacket on or off, a different scarf, headphones, thuggish walk, etc – identify the characters without holding up the action or moving too far away from the main theme.

Zapiro’s hilarious cartoons chosen to fit the subjects under discussion add more humour to the overall package. The show runs for about 70 minutes without interval. Don’t miss it if you like clever satirical humour well presented!

Bafana Republic runs at Catalina Theatre until October 28 with performances from Tuesdays to Saturdays at 20h15 (Sundays at 18h00) Tickets R65 (R35 pensioners and students) booked through Catalina on 031 305 6889 or online at www.strictlytickets.com – Caroline Smart




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