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ENERGETIC NERD (article first published : 2001-04-12)

The Loser - running at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

Okay, so Durban's Aaron McIlroy, of Sex, Bugs and Rock 'n' Roll and Abba Maniacs fame, has perhaps been milking his hyperactive, eccentric nerd routine for too long now.

One can trace the fellow back more than 10 years to the original cast of Themi Venturas's Good Vibrations, actually. But, says McIlroy, as long as there is a call for his klutz, in varying disguises, he'll keep presenting him. And why not, I say? A packed and enthusiastic opening night audience for The Loser certainly found plenty to laugh about and showed no signs of tiring of the elastic face and body, gnashing grin, quick wheezes and goofy, dance outbursts which have become the McIlroy trademark.

And, it has to be said, his nerd character has never been better spotlighted than in this offbeat and ebullient one-man show which, directed by X, features superb lighting designs by Mike Broderick. McIlroy, in groovy beige suit, loud tie and even louder shirt, and with his balding head dyed blonde, makes his entrance singing Robert Palmer's Sledgehammer.

Introducing himself as successful motivational speaker Truscott Pryce, a saviour to losers, he then takes his place between the bottom steps of two towering, curving white stairways flanked by brightly coloured curtains. There we become ensconced in the whacky world of Pryce and his silly speak, touching upon issues as varied as loving relationships, animal behaviour and even circumcision and masturbation.

We discover a man who, if his presentation procedures and logic often hit a rocky road, never falters when it comes to confidence and chutzpah. And we also meet his success stories: three men who remain sad no-hopers, however much they might argue that they have found a new lease on life by following Pryce's slogan of DWGBA - an acronym one will have to attend the show to decipher and fully appreciate.

Pryce's followers are introduced individually by McIlroy in his guise as a jut-chinned, posh-speaking psychiatrist, who appears in video sequences on a suspended screen, allowing the actor to exit for costume changes.

First up is the awkward Rocky Typhoon, a failed MTN Gladiator which has McIlroy donning Tina Turner spike-wig, silver cycling shorts and gaudy crop-top. We learn of Rocky's tough training schedule and his rock-hard buttocks. Then there's the even funnier Shamus, a blonde-wigged, one-armed Irish dancer who has failed seven auditions for Riverdance and who encourages us all to stand up and follow him in performing a variety of absurd hand actions.

Also hilarious, if not particularly PC, is his VJ "Bruce" Moodley character, who has been advised by Pryce to follow a career in Bollywood - "but there's not much demand for an albino Indian with a bad wig". He tells us of his five uncles, leading to a fun variation of the Lou Bega hit, Mambo No 5. The song and much of this routine was sampled in The Revenge of the Pink Panties, a "greatest hits" show staged last year by McIlroy and his wife, Lisa Bobbert, but nobody seems to mind.

In between the lunacy we get McIlroy's sideline servings of song, by turn comic - a reworked Can't Help Falling in Love involves the journey of excrement - and straight (as straight as this comic can be, that is). Among them are We Like To Party, Stuck On You, Jailhouse Rock, The Wonder of You and a great finale crowd-pleaser We Are the Champions.

The Loser is wild, whacky and wonderful entertainment that's a sure cure for the blues. It is scheduled to run until April 29. Tickets are R42,50 and booking is at Computicket. Billy Suter




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