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COMEDY IN GRAHAMSTOWN (article first published : 2001-05-23)

Comedy shows and stand-up artists are always good for a bit of mirth and light relief from reality. Those on the Fringe of the Standard Bank National Arts Festival from June 28 to July 7 run from the sublimely funny to the ridiculously silly.

Publicity, packaging and image come together in Fiona Coyne's Glass Roots, a hilarious play about the marketing of a new beer. Fine performances are given from Diane Wilson, Jenny Stead, Gail Reagon and Wiseman Sithole, directed by Roy Sargeant.

What do you get when you cross a schoolboy wizard with a mysterious continent? The answer is Raiders of Potty Harry, Theatre for Africa's next installment in the record breaking Raiders saga. Nhlanhla Mavundla joins Nick and Liz Ellenbogen for the crazy adventure.

The socioeconomic situation provides food for thought and entertainment in Themba Ndimande's Dit sal die dag wees presented in Afrikaans. Three hoboes address many of the country's problems, among them health issues like HIV and AIDS. Ndimande appears onstage with Vusi Banyai and director Calvin Ngcaku.

Doctor Doctor gives an unconventional glimpse into "the maniacal world of the medical profession". In their sketches and parodies, Steven Coetzee and Justin Wilkinson have the cure for anyone who is feeling down. All they ask is that you leave yourself in "the intensive care of the general practitioners of absurdity". (They warn that their language could result in cardiac arrest.)

Set in a renal unit, Magnum's Budgies watches the formation of an unlikely friendship. Daniel Dias and Jonathan Pugh take the parts of two individuals with very different perspectives on life. Those who are seriously concerned with their physical appearance could pick up a few body-altering tips as well as much humour from Louis Sefer in Gymnauseum.

A one act work about smoking, Nicotine Nights turns a familiar subject into something highly amusing. Erica Glyn-Jones, Karin Alexander and Colleen Triegaardt decline to take sides on the debate, offering instead a "slick, sexy" show with a fast pace - and a leopard print couch.

Rapid change provides the backdrop for White Men in Buckets, Matthew Rubnik's view of young navy recruits in the early 90s. They travel on an epic journey from Germiston's mine dumps to Bombay's brothels, discovering that sometimes it is necessary to form a new world, embrace humanity and not take the self too seriously.

Of Cats and Dogs sees Martin Koboekae and Ferry Jele as an unmarried couple who live together. Their relationship, the sort known in township language as "vat-en-sit", is fraught with misunderstandings and a balance of joy and pain. Billed as an adult comedy, Koboekae's drama features "cheeky incorrigibles" with dirty mouths.

When the Bokke clash with the All Blacks, it is time for Foul Play of another kind. A pair of bumbling brothers try to swindle an American tourist at a rugby match with unexpected and delightful results. Ben Voss, John van de Ruit and Tamar Meskin appear in the farce. Meskin directs Santhiran Moonsamy and Tyron Akal in The Hole, about a local prison which is turned upside down.

Biting satire is inevitable in Dracula B My Story, Alan Committie's "gothic-spoof-mock-horror-physical-gore-fest-bloody marvellous show", also starring Gaetan Schmid. With Shirley Kirchmann, Committie frolics through the stunning sketches of greats like Charlie Chaplin, Lee Evans, John Cleese and Rowan Atkinson in The Clown Jewels.

No Fringe lineup would be complete without jesters like John Vlismas and Bevan Cullinan. Together in Grinder, they embark on a quest to find God. Vlismas boasts "all new material, all new targets and all new warp speed" for his solo romp, Whacked. Cullinan, in turn, plans to blow people away with Freakshow, his startling "wave of sound and physical animation".

Stand Up Desmond Part II lets Desmond Ngwenya loose on stage while Stef Juncker rips off everything from sex to religion in his "hardcore" routines. Foot in Mouth is not for the faint-hearted, he says. With Sidesplitting Hypnosis, he invites volunteers to participate in a spontaneous display of what he terms "hypnosis on steroids".

South Africa's most acclaimed performers blow raspberries at every aspect of society, eliciting giggles and guffaws in the process. Catch the jokes at the Standard Bank National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.




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