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LETTER FROM ANDREW VERSTER (article first published : 2007-12-9)

I was disappointed by Claire Angelique’s review in the Tribune. Not because she was tepid about the show but because her comments about Africanising it were not thought through. It’s cheap. And a cliché to be avoided.

How do you Africanise Damon Runyon? Who would be next? Hemmingway? It’s just plain silly.

It’s the golden age of American writing. To Africanise it, would mean rewriting it entirely. Where would she get off at “for the fourteenth time”? Isipingo? Would Niagara become the Howick Falls? The lyrics depend on the Bronx accents to make them punchy and amusing – “corf” for cough, to rhyme with “orf”.

Are crap games African? The “Public School Eighty Four” would become what? Addington Primary? And the cheesecake and strudel debate? Samp and beans? What of the “Scarsdale Galahad, the breakfast eating Brooks Brothers type”?

How do you rewrite I Love You a Bushel and a Peck? without losing the authenticity of Runyon’s Americanisms? Do we use the expression “A Barrel and a Heap”? And The cows and chickens are going to the Dickens? Africanise that and make it rhyme.

Do we have Bromo Fizz and talk of La Grippe? But you need them to rhyme with “trouble is” and “post nasal drip”.

Damon Runyon’s language is American and if you don’t want it, you are in the wrong musical.

“When the street belongs to the cop; and the janitor with his mop; and the grocery clerks are all gone”.

Africanise this (which follows the lyrics “Slowly introduce him to the better things; respectable, conservative and clean;) ... "Readers Digest; Guy Lombardo; Rogers Peet; golf; galoshes; Ovaltine".

Andrew Verster: Costume designer, Guys and Dolls




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