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

PETER MAXWELL’S BACK! (article first published : 2001-02-1)

“If it’s laugher you’re after” - as he himself says - then Peter Maxwell’s your man. And he’s right - judging by the response from the enthusiastic audience at Bella Vista in Botha’s Hill where he has been performing a month’s run of weekly one-night stands. If you missed him this time round, he returns to Bella Visa later in the year to perform on August 7, 14 and 28.

Showing very little wear and tear and none of the trauma that must have accompanied his recent hijacking in which he lost everything from his passport and driving licence to his portable computer, he weaves his own life story into his show.

Born in Southampton – “five miles south and I would have been a kipper!” - he Introduces songs and throws in the occasional jibe at suitable members of the audience. He describes his career from the time when sang in the Baptist Church as a choir boy for a shilling a week to his days in the Royal Air Force when he was paid £5 for performing 20 minutes to his first performance at the Edward Hotel in Durban on October 1, 1958. He was to return to the Edward Hotel every Christmas season for the next 35-odd years, becoming as much a holiday landmark on the beachfront as the Aquarium.

Now working for 42 years and having travelled the world, he still handles the piano keyboard with a passion – in this case his beloved touch sensitive and sponsored Yamaha Clavinova. He’s just as dynamic verbally. Squeaks, squawks and madcap trills punctuate his stories to the delight of the audience who promptly respond to “Cheers!” - his legendary invitation to lift the elbow, drink in hand! He doesn’t do impersonations, per se – “If it’s who you think it is,” he quips, “that’s who it is”. And then launches into song in the unmistakably gravel tones of the inimitable Louis Armstrong.

One of his cleverest comedy numbers is I Could Have Danced All Night from My Fair Lady in which he sings both baritone and soprano, throwing “Satchmo” in for good measure. His stories are hilarious and told with much dramatic accomplishment and fiendish delight, like the one about two brothers painting separate edifices in Sydney Harbour, or the shaggy dog story of the knight in armour who went bluebell picking in the woods. This is not a show to take your prissy maiden aunt to, nor someone who may be sensitive to racist jokes – although he does take the mickey out of all and sundry.

Occasionally we are allowed to see that he can present a song seriously – in his Danny Boy, Mr Bojangles and a poignant rendition of Wind Beneath My Wings.

Having based himself in Hillcrest for the next nine months or so, Peter Maxwell now heads off for performances around the country in his sponsored Nissan, returning for two shows at the Westville Country Club on February 23 and 24, one at the Amatikulu Country Club in Gingingdlovu on March 3 and another at the New Germany Club on March 9.

Peter Maxwell will be giving a percentage of his performance fee to Childline. He can be contacted on 082 451-4044.




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