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GRAHAMSTOWN - CABARET (article first published : 1999-07-12)

No stranger to South African audiences, Drummond Marais is equally at home as an actor, dancer or singer, his veins run with the pure blood of showbiz. In Serendipity which recently appeared on the fringe of the Standard Bank National Arts Festival, he tells his own story through well-chosen songs – from the time he was born, to his marriage to his best friend, the birth of his son and the (to him, then) unwelcome realisation that he was gay.

He strides onto the stage dramatically in a heavy black coat, looking dark and ominous – which is exactly what the weather was like when he was born in the middle of a thunderstorm. From his first number, That’s Life, you know you’re in the hands of an impeccably articulate and consummate professional who then proceeds to take his audiences with him through the ups and downs – more downs than ups, if we are to believe him – of his personal life.

Numbers like What’s it all about? reflect his constant questioning and restlessness as he blames his dysfunctional parents and a dysfunctional education for most of his earlier problems. Considered out of context, the choice of music is wide and extremely varied: Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Room in Bloomsbury slip in among Yesterday when I was Young and Guido’s Song from Nine and styles range from swing and jazz to blues and showbiz music. Each number, however, is there for its contribution to the story line and his rendition of Cavatina (from The Deer Hunter has to be the most beautiful and dramatic interpretation I’ve ever heard.

There is much wry humour and self-deprecation. He talks ironically of his former self-importance and touches on the heartaches and upheavals endured on the road to achieving a new-found peace of mind. “I’d spent 40 odd years searching for that myth that would make all complete, whole and real.”

Performed without a break, as it was at the SBNAF, it became a bit of a non-stop music marathon. However, when it is performed in the real world (as opposed to a festival one) it will have two halves separated by an interval which will allow both performers and audience breathing space.

Musical director Trevor Harper has created most of the arrangements and accompanies Drummond Marais on the piano, providing occasional harmonies. This is a sophisticated, intelligently presented and classy show presented by two highly skilled performers, offering audiences the level of good entertainment we’ve been missing for so long. It’s not so much about gay relationships but one man’s musical journey towards the attainment of a calm and positive personal philosophy.

Serendipity moves to the Playhouse Cellar at the end of July and then on to the Moon Box at the Pretoria Technikon.


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