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BEAUTY AND THE B.E.E! (article first published : 2008-04-7)

Ben Voss makes a very welcome return to KwaZulu-Natal with Beauty and the B.E.E! (also billed as Black by Popular Demand!) which he wrote and in which he stars as his alter ego Beauty Ramapelepele, a 49 year-old nouveau-riche Houghton mother of two.

Beauty and the B.E.E. is directed by Janice Honeyman whose work we unfortunately seldom see in Durban. Her deft hand shows, as does the superb talent of Ben Voss. This show has all the bite and professionalism of his previous Green Mamba and Black Mamba. which he co-wrote and co-performed with John van de Ruit.

With the help of very good lighting and voice over by the MC of the South African Business Woman of the Year Award Ceremony, we witness Beauty in her dressing room preparing for the award ceremony and then her acceptance speech. Ben’s accent, body movements and general demeanour as Beauty Ramapalapele are spot-on and the script is brilliant. As is his delivery, as he races through it, slowly at first and then at a lightning pace. This could perhaps be slowed down at times as it is so fast that one can miss many of the brilliant lines.

Beauty Ramapalapele is the epitome of a South African rags-to-riches success story. She started off as a house maid, working for Mrs Whitaker, making clothing as a sideline before approaching a bank for start-up capital to create her own business which developed into the multi-million Rand Yebo Fabrics, of which she is the CEO, and a remarkably classy lady she is. She is a bright, beautiful, bitchy, black woman at the top of her business and social game, she certainly knows a thing or two about name dropping, which she does so well, and is well up on the electronic age of cell phones, voice mail, computers and Book-Face, correction, FaceBook.

Again by the use of voice over, Ben Voss gives a delightful portrayal of Beauty being interviewed on a Top Billing show.

Beauty Ramapelepele presents a “fly on the wall” view of South Africa’s new black elite superbly. The descriptions of the views and the neighbours to the South, West, North and East of her home are brilliant. The trials and tribulations of hiring a maid, be it a Black, White, Indian, Coloured, English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Portuguese, Chinese etc. are hilarious. Beauty's marriage to Tobias Ramapelepele, a construction mogul is about to end in divorce, on the eve of their daughter's marriage to a White Afrikaner (a Mr du Plessis) and Beauty is putting the final touches to the bridal dress, by candlelight as a result of Escom's load shedding - a very well done scene.

Beauty and the B.E.E. runs at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until April 21 April prior to its nationwide tour which then moves to the Heritage Theatre, Hillcrest (May 12 to 18); the Hexagon Theatre, Pietermaritzburg (May 20 to 24), Johannesburg, Grahamstown and Cape Town. Booking is at Computicket.

Don't miss this opportunity to see excellent humorous theatre at its best, performed by a real artist. – Maurice Kort




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