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PETER MAXWELL … ON STAGE (article first published : 2001-04-20)

Someone once mused that if Victor Borge married Liberace, Peter Maxwell would have been the progeny. Whoever made the remark, it was apt – the consummate entertainer has Borge’s sense of fun and the musical flamboyance of Liberace. A wizard at the keyboard, Peter Maxwell has lost none of his rapier sharp wit and ability to take the mickey out of anything and anyone in the 40 odd years he has been entertaining audiences in Durban.

Currently performing at Kwasuka Theatre until April 28 - and the first time he has performed on a “real” stage for about 30 years - he has chosen to take a nostalgic trip down memory lane – taking in the old days at the Edward Hotel, recalling the entertainers he has known and singing songs which bear his own individual stamp.

For this show, he has toned down the sharpness of his tongue and offers a highly entertaining, amusing and enjoyable programme. You would be comfortable taking your maiden aunt, provided she had a sense of humour and enjoyed a bit of risque fun.

Fun is what Peter Maxwell is all about – the ability to laugh at oneself and rejoice in the energy of life. He will make you smile at his antics, cry at his tender playing and gasp at his audacity – all the while respecting his years of experience and tenacity on life.

Despite major heart operations, a hi-jacking and a close encounter with a flying steel bar off a truck 24 hours before opening night, he’s still on top form and displaying the energy of someone half his age. He talks of his love for KZN; makes every song his own and evokes helpless tears of laughter with his hilarious stories while exhorting his audience to join him in nonsensical choruses.

While there is a certain structure to the programme, he will tell you himself that each performance will be different. Hopefully, one section will remain constant and that is his reverent nod to the primates which includes Jungle Beat and a poignant number in which he compares the highly supportive family unit of monkeys to the self-centred behaviour of humankind.

Opening night saw him pay tribute to the inimitable tenor Harry Secombe, well-known member of the legendary Goons, who died recently. Another tribute was to Sammy Davis Jnr with Mr Bojangles.

The production is perfect for Kwasuka’s intimate auditorium and, with plastic glasses specially purchased for shows such as these, the audience is able to respond to his time-honoured shout of “Cheers!” Brandon Bunyan’s lighting design is sensitive and effective, particularly for Where Have all the Flowers Gone?, a number Marlene Dietrich sang on her first visit to South Africa.

Maxwell and his piano appear as a complete entity and the only numbers that don’t really work are those when he moves away from the instrument to perform to backing tracks.

Tickets R35 (R28 senior citizens and block bookings) at Computicket or Kwasuka on (031) 309-2236. There will be a matinee at 14h00 on April 28.




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