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JO’BURG FOLLIES 2000 - REVIEW (article first published : 1999-11-15)

Alright, so it’s a formula. Fair enough, you’ve heard many of the gags before. Okay, we know what to expect. All the more reason to take in the latest in the popular series, Jo’Burg Follies 2000. And popular it certainly is. Together, co-stars and co-authors Malcolm Terrey and Kevin Feather have appeared in over 1,500 performances of Jo'burg Follies since it was conceived in 1986. That’s a lot of “bums on seats” which is what survival in the professional theatre world is all about.

Opening the show, clad in gold sequins and animal prints, the cast (as themselves, for a change!) run through the standard opening number before they start their costume and character changing marathon which will see them lampooning close on 30 personalities.

In outsized waistcoat and curly beard, Malcolm considers whether Barry Ronge (Oh, Yes, I’m the Great Presenter/Pretender) is a Teletubby or a pregnant bear (“well, no-one can tell!” he quips). Bronwyn elegant in eau-de-nil trouser suit as Penny Smyth (I’m Lovely) announces that she’s not wearing foundation on her face but “Micatex and plaster” and Sivan Raphaely, complete with toothy smile as Isobel Jones, strides in to the theme from Jaws singing Just You Wait.

From then on, it’s no holds barred. The gags? You’ve heard them before – mostly from Malcolm Terrey: “Kevin Feather is living proof that Snow White had sex with Dopy” … “Gordon Mulholland’s in hospital – waiting for the birth of his new girlfriend” .. etc. But as along as they’re pulling in the laughs, they work.

There’s no point in even trying to compete with Malcolm Terrey. He’d eclipse a volcanic eruption, given the chance! Whether decked out in a wild lilac wig (“Viagra in the shampoo”) as Dame Edna Everage taking the mickey out of the front row, in an equally extravagant wig as Very Scary Spice or as Hansie Cronje (Hot Stuff) Malcolm is outrageous, flamboyant and impossibly irreverent! The patter song, sung to the music of Gilbert and Sullivan’s I am the Very Model of a Model Major General is a Follies regular and this is where Malcolm’s impeccable diction and his control of verbal dynamics comes to the fore. This time the subject is “What it’s like to be a resident in South Africa today”. The reminders of our crime-ridden society sound twice as alarming when he sings the song backwards!

A leather-clad George Michael (Zip Me Up Before You Go Go) was a foretaste of his interpretation of Michael Flatulence/Flatley (Bored with the Dance/Lord of the Dance), not to mention a long (very long) look at the theme from Titanic with Celine Dion. A quick mention: Malcolm designed and executed all the wigs (and there are many!), as well as the costumes which were executed by Elmaré Jacobs. A multi-talented number, this!

Occasionally the others get a look in. Kevin Feather is a wizard at the piano any day but he pulls in the laughs as Dame Edna’s downtrodden assistant Madge and makes a delicious Spice Girl with blonde bunches.

Sivan Raphaely’s Laurika Rauch goes on a bit, with most of the audience not getting the gag that she’s’ trying to get across the stage to the spotlight and the Dr Zuma one-man band was a bit chaotic. However, her finest interpretation (considerably helped by the fact that she looks extraordinarily like Monica Lewinsky) was Along Came Bill, a hilarious censure of the US President and his cigar-wielding activities.

Bronwyn Evan (last seen in Durban as Columbia in The Rocky Horror Show) sent up Pamela Anderson (I’m Simply a Chest/the Best) to perfection! She also shone, singing (My Endless Hair/Love) with Malcolm Terry (playing Michael Bolton) as Diana Ross in an outfit created from a mass of cascading `curls’.

Directed and choreographed by Owen Lonzar, Jo’Burg Follies opens to reveal a simple but effective set designed by Denis Hutchinson. Above the raised platform at the back of the stage is a screen which presents video-ed material, usually lampooning SABC television presenters and programmes. While it’s a neat ruse to give the performers time to change costumes or make-up I’ve never been happy with this aspect of the show. Not because of the critical comment (which is usually spot-on) but because the clips are deliberately presented in an excruciatingly amateur style. My argument is that the subjects under fire are invariably seen in the context of (mostly) good professional camera work, sound and stage settings. It’s what the presenters DO that is often so amateurish.

If you want an evening of fun and local satire presented by four highly talented performers, then Jo'burg Follies 2000 is for you. The show runs at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until November 20. Book through Computicket.




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