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WAVE OF COMEDY AT EST (article first published : 2007-02-11)

One of the finest one-man shows of this or any other year, Matthew Ribnick's Hoot, along with the talented performer's equally excellent and popular companion piece, The Chilli Boy, will enjoy another return season in Durban soon - at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

The Chilli Boy, about the comic chaos that ensues when an elderly Indian woman is reincarnated as a boytjie from Boksburg, is scheduled to slot in at the University of KwaZulu-Natal campus's hillside theatre from February 20 to March 4 and the award-winning Hoot from March 6 to 18.

A riotous romp, Hoot is set in contemporary South Africa and showcases Ribnick's versatility as he morphs between 20 diverse characters caught up in the minibus taxi business, among them a rich white man who turns to his new career when he loses everything.

Hoot was the top-selling show of both the 2005 and 2006 National Arts Festival fringe in Grahamstown. The production won The Mercury GoodLife nod for the best solo work seen in Durban last year, when it received a 10/10 rating, and also received the Naledi Award for Best Comedy Performance last year. It chronicles the colourful journey of a rich white man who loses everything and becomes a mini-bus taxi driver.

After Ribnick's seasons the Sneddon will present the first of is annual festivals conducted by the university's Centre for Creative Arts.

This will be the 10th annual Time of the Writer festival, which will once again bring together South African, African and international writers in a week-long programme of stimulating literary events. The festival, set to run from March 19 to 24, is designed to develop public interest in literature and promote a culture of reading and writing in South Africa.

From March 28 to April 22, the theatre plans something that promises to be a lot of fun. A co-production between Centrestage and Macbob Productions and titled The Magnificent Seven, it will feature local funnyman Aaron McIlroy playing seven different comedy characters. These characters will interact with a band playing the music of seven great bands - Abba, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Bee Gees, the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Beach Boys and Queen.

Theatre spokesman Sue Roberts says a production called Everything Old, Is New Again, will follow, from April 25 to May 6. It's a music revue produced and performed by members of the well-established Company of Theatre Arts which has been producing shows in Durban for the past 21 years, in venues such as the St Johns Theatre, the Sneddon, the Rhumbelow and Westville Civic Centre. "The new show is a collage of song, dance and comedy taken from their successes of the past 21 years,” says Sue Roberts. “It features classics from such hit musicals as Guys and Dolls>/i>, The Jungle Book and Pippin, as well as songs from the company's own successes, including Denim To Diamonds, One Hit Wonders, Stage and Screen and songs from locally written shows such as A Twist of Lennon, Oh, Mr Porter and To Be Frank."

Dance will pull the spotlight at the Sneddon from May 7 to 13, when Lliane Loots's Flatfoot Dance Company presents a new season, after which the theatre will be home to the National Creative Arts Youth. "This annual event was inaugurated by Professor Elizabeth Sneddon herself, to benefit the youth of this province and will continue to run annually in memory of this great lady, after whom the theatre is named," says Sue Roberts.

Another annual must-do event, South Africa’s longest-running film festival, will run at the theatre from June 20 to July 1. Now in its 28th year, the Durban International Film Festival will present more than 300 local and international films at various venues around Durban, of which a good portion will be screened at the Sneddon.

The curtain will rise on a popular musical from July 5 to 22, when the Unilever Young Performers stage their annual show featuring local teen performers from around the province. "The title of this year’s offering has yet to be announced, but rumour has it that it is likely to be Annie, West Side Story or Pirates of Penzance," adds Sue Roberts.

Attractions at the campus theatre in the second half of the year will include the annual Jomba International Contemporary Dance Festival (August 15 to 26) and Poetry Africa (October 1 to 6), both organised by UKZN’s Centre For Creative Arts.

The university’s drama department will stage its annual student production from September 3 to 16 and the annual dance students production is scheduled this year for October 24 to November 4.

No plans have been confirmed yet for the big year-end production, although a new, glossy pantomime by Steven Stead and Greg King seems a strong probability. – Billy Suter




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