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

MADE IN INDIA (article first published : 2002-11-25)

With his smooth drawling Canadian accent, internationally-renowned comedian Russell Peters is a genial entertainer. Informally though elegantly dressed, he ambles around the Playhouse Drama stage and, once he has identified his targets in the audience, teases them unmercifully for the rest of the show which bears the apt title Made in India.

While his speech is peppered with strong language he presents it with such aplomb and casualness that I didn’t find it offensive. Normally, I think the ever-prevalent “fucks” and “shits” from stand-up comics are just a lazy use of language – although I’ll concede that they contain good vowels for dramatic effect!

Russell Peters’ show focuses a lot on racial and ethnic groups and the many differences between them – I was amused at his description that the rapid-fire delivery of Tamil language speakers sounds a little like pinball machines. And after listening to his hilarious send-up of Indian movies where the heroine invariably ends out in a field in the pouring rain supported by the ever-present song and dance troupe, I definitely need to head for a Bollywood production!

There is also much fun to be had at the fact that, standing at 1.2 billion, Indians number the second largest population in the world next to China. He posed a scenario for the future where a Hindu and a Jew marry and produce – what? A Hinjew, of course! Not to mention that the offspring of a Frenchman and a Greek woman would naturally be a Freek.

He draws much on his Canadian and Asian roots and, unfortunately for me, some of the ethnic Indian humour I missed but the mainly Indian audience responded with hysterical delight.

It’s an attractive set with a beautiful star-shaped floor cloth although it’s completely cosmetic. Nobody sits on the beautiful high backed cane chairs, neither performer avails themselves of the jug of water and glass placed invitingly on a side table nor do they take one step up onto the raised circular section.

All the stage does is hog the space and, more importantly, hog the light. The most irritating feature of the evening was to see Russell Peters move in and out of light – not his fault, he’s doing what he’s there for … performing. He shouldn’t have to worry about what is a fairly basic lighting state, to cover the area downstage and onto the apron. Perhaps if the stage was moved back a bit or the raised section was done away with, this problem would be resolved.

Acting as curtain raiser is the engaging Krijay Govender dressed to kill in skin tight pants. She provides a good foil for Russell Peters, engaging her own slick brand of humour without attempting to steal his thunder.

Made in India is running in The Playhouse Drama until December 8. Book at Computicket.




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