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

NEUROTRASH (article first published : 2003-03-19)

Only John Vlismas could come up with a title like Neurotrash!

This exceptional stand-up comic, back in Durban to present his new show at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, looks at how the world of internet technology is beginning to make invasive routes into the homes of ordinary people. He predicts that one day people will have a tiny chip inserted under their skin which will make them capable of hosting their own website!

Or, how about a toilet that is programmed to recognise your weight and structure and analyse your body waste? Extended this scenario a step further to a fridge that can receive this information via its own modem and send it on to your doctor …or, worse, your medical aid? There would be no place to hide when even your home appliances know your every intimate detail.

Normally performers of this nature perform on a bare stage with little or no decoration or sense of occasion. With John Vlismas, you get a car hanging from the ceiling. Okay, it’s a degutted Uno impressively decorated by the innovative Bev Cullinan but it forms a striking visual image and even acts as a billboard with flashing lights!

There’s a somewhat erratic red carpet and a real over-the-top theatrical fanfare with lots of lights and smoke galore.

Tonight was the first night of this new show and, as he has been out of the province for some time, John was very much feeling his way back into the minds of Durban audiences and finding out what makes them tick – or, more importantly, what makes them laugh.

His wit is as acutely penetrating and dissecting as laser surgery. He peels back layers of dross and pretension and gets to the core of a number of subjects. The impending war in the Gulf provides much material for humour as does Osama Bin Ladin and the Muslim culture itself. But it’s not only Muslims who take the flak – his satirical stengun is out in force for Catholics, Afrikaans extremists, people from the Bluff, audience members wearing shorts, Capetonians, temperamental koi fish … and gays. Although, momentarily forgetting he’s married, he’s very happy to encourage gay relationships as they “cut down the opposition” in the boy-meets-girl stakes.

He shows no mercy with the new casino with: “Art Leggo! – The aliens have landed … and they’re gay!” Or Gateway: “a billion rand front door to Phoenix”. Flea markets and those who frequent them come in for a hammering as well.

I am sure that for many the most fascinating part of his show will be the half-real, half-joking account of the recent birth of his daughter. While the experience obviously affected him profoundly, he recalled every detail at the same time allowing the comedian within him to stand back and recognise the potential humour in a situation which could have had an outcome far removed from the successful delivery of his baby girl.

Neurotrash is presented by East Coast Radio and NEAR Entertainment and runs at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from March 18 to April 4. Book at Computicket. – Caroline Smart




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