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

GREEN MAMBA (article first published : 2002-09-7)

After the show’s first and – as the creators themselves describe it – “chaotic and somewhat overwhelming” performance at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, John van de Ruit and Ben Voss’s Green Mamba is back on home turf and continuing to pull in the audiences.

I attended that first performance in Grahamstown which may have been chaotic but sufficient interest was generated in the production to ensure it a sell-out run. By the middle of the festival, the show had already reached the top ten favourite productions on the Fringe. Now running in the Square Space Theatre on the campus of the University of Natal, Green Mamba is tighter and the rough edges have been considerably smoothed. The sketches are more defined and the actors now handle the musical segments with more aplomb and unity. Also without the sense of “unsure-ness” evidenced in that first “chaotic” performance!

They’re all still there - from Ben’s star car guarder Lincoln Hatchback addressing a car guard convention to John’s smooth send-up of a well-known television presenter. Taxi Takeoff fares better this time round, a highly amusing parody of an air hostess demonstrating the safety measures on an aircraft … although this time it’s in a fully laden taxi!

The show now runs with an interval and there is a very clever new item called Satellite Serenade. Here is my review of 29.06.2002 written in Grahamstown:

“Ben Voss and John van de Ruit, FNB Vita award winners both, have put together what they describe as a “venomous satirical comedy” which premiers at this year’s National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. Directed by multi-award winning director Greig White Men With Weapons Coetzee, the show comprises a series of sketches which bear the clear stamp of his skilful flair for sending up a wide variety of subjects in contemporary South Africa.

An amusing voiceover admonishment regarding the use of cell phones starts the show, to be followed by a highly amusing scene demonstrating the most effective way to be a car guard. The humour then follows thick and fast.

John van de Ruit and Ben Voss’s writing is clever, incisive and bang up to date. There’s a Crime Forecast, delivered with the same deadpan presentation as is the weather. We drop into the Big Brother household … several times… to see how the two finalists are coping.

A fairly lengthy sketch sends up the television documentary programme Third Degree. It deals with a bank robbery and involves the input of the Minister of Security; an old lady who gets her words wrong in a very un-PC way, a volatile detective and a stuttering and misleading witness. The Battle of Isandlwana comes under fire as well, as a pair of doddering old British “commentators” discuss the process as if it were a cricket match.

Ben Voss offers a death policy with a difference, the pair lampoon people in the public eye and their various famous and infamous deeds. One of the highlights was a satire on Westerns which saw Ben Voss barbecuing chickens Nando style and accompanied by brilliantly produced sound effects from John van de Ruit. The show also provides an opportunity for the two actors to prove that they are budding singers! Are we to expect their next production to have backing tracks?”

I still think that backing tracks aren’t far away! This FNB Vita award-winning pair have the capacity to involve more music in their shows. Their clever reworked lyrics for numbers involved in Bin Laden Blues promise many successful future journeys down satirical musical lanes.

Green Mamba runs until September 29 in the Square Space Theatre. Performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 19h30 and Sundays at 18h30. Bookings on 083 555-1885 or Computicket or visit www.thunderdog.co.za - Caroline Smart




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