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

BAFANA REPUBLIC (article first published : 2007-09-24)

I know precious little about soccer – or any other sport, really! - but, apart from missing out on some of the humour aimed at the game which was received with gales of laughter from the packed Hilton Arts Festival audience, I loved every minute of Bafana Republic.

Mike van Graan’s distinctive swift, rapier-slashing satirical humour and no-holds-barred broadsides at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, various politicians or sport personalities in the limelight makes for a fast-moving show that is sometimes analytical, often outrageous but always entertaining.

Bafana Republic is told through the eyes of a tour guide – one Marthina van Schalkwyk, the epitome of corporate efficiency in a neat pin-striped suit. As the show opens, she presents a series of placards which place us in a future in which we are to believe that Jacob Zuma is now in the presidential seat. Marthina then proceeds to morph into a rapid-fire selection of no less than nine characters, ranging from a news commentator, a soccer manager’s assistant from Brazil or the ditsy Chardonnay to a group of nervous wannabee pop stars in the Bafana Idols!

Who to cast in such a demanding role must have been the daunting challenge facing Mike van Graan and director Lara Bye. Their choice was perfect - none other than Lindiwe Matshikiza who held the audience captivated from the very beginning. She’s sexy, sassy, full of bounce, can do attitude and, to top all that, she can sing!

In the Bafana Idols, each individual character was meticulously drawn with their own nervous response to the ordeal of the audition. The most hilarious audition number was a riotous send-up of Jacob Zuma’s much-hyped wary cry – although, instead of a shotgun, the singer laments the need for a washing machine!

Lindiwe has an excellent command of accents and her characters are achieved with subtlety and accuracy. The gags come thick and fast and if you aren’t careful, you might just miss some of Mike van Graan’s succinct throwaway lines.

This is material that could become didactic and confrontational if not handled properly. Lara Bye has produced just the right touch, zipping over the hot coals, as it were, like a dragon fly and then slamming the sting home like a wasp. The barest minimum of costume changes or body language – jacket on or off, a different scarf, headphones, thuggish walk, etc – identify the characters without holding up the action or moving too far away from the main theme.

Zapiro’s hilarious cartoons chosen to fit the subjects under discussion add more humour to the overall package. Don’t miss it!

Bafana Republic comes to Durban next month to run at Catalina Theatre from October 2 to 28 with performances from Tuesdays to Saturdays at 20h15 (Sundays at 18h00) Tickets R65 (R35 pensioners and students) booked through Catalina on 031 305 6889 or online at www.strictlytickets.com – Caroline Smart

”Bafana Republic” is generously sponsored by Die Burger Suidoosterfees (which is fast developing its brand as a leading arts festival in Cape Town), Spier with its long reputation for support for the arts, and the Netherlands-based Prince Claus Fund.




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