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

CABARET ON THE COUCH (article first published : 2000-10-4)

It’s not every night you see the solo artiste of a cabaret carted off on a stretcher at the end of the show. But then Cabaret on the Couch is not your usual cabaret. Drawing from her many years of experience in musicals and operas working with the now defunct Playhouse Singers, Mari Visagie has produced cabaret with a difference. Cabaret on the Couch is directed by Eddie Magic who co-wrote the script with Peter Collins and runs at the Royal Backstage until October 21.

Cabaret audiences expect “tits, bums and feathers” she pronounces pithily and then proceeds to produce none of these. Nor will you hear standard cabaret musical numbers. What you will see is a show full of dramatic energy, much tongue-in cheek humour – with the occasional sideswipes at the Playhouse – and some well-sung songs. In the main these suit her strong voice, particularly Makin’ Whoopee and Un Jour. Other successes are Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, David Kramer’s Supermarket Song and a string of French terms sung Piaf style.

The central character is a somewhat mentally deranged woman in a place of care. Hardly the stuff of which cabaret is made but it’s a good device on which to hang a story line. Making her first appearance in wild and woolly hair pushing a walker, she offers her caustic and pertinent opinions of the state of cabaret in the world today – usually uttered languidly lounging on the couch.

Wandering in and out of dementia and personality changes, she occasionally produces gems of philosophies such as “We should start off at the end. Die and get it over it. Then be kicked out of an old age home,” go through life backwards and “end as an orgasm!”

Mari uses her dramatic and vocal talents to the full and gives audiences their money’s worth in a non-stop programme of music and patter. There are 20 songs – some with their words altered to suit the moment – and Mari’s language skills come in handy when she sings in German, French and Japanese.

Seated at the piano and providing sympathetic accompaniment is Matthew Vlok who takes on the persona of her doctor/psychiatrist and is often called upon to help his patient in or out of a costume or extricate her from one of her many outrageous wigs. The wigs and clever props were created by director Eddie Magic and the most successful of these are a stripped date palm stalk plus crab which becomes an oar and an extraordinary construction of syringes and grey balls which parodies showgirls’ feathered head dresses. Also a new fashion statement has been created with a boa made of inflated surgical gloves – sounds weird but looks very dramatic and the weight makes it hang well.

On opening night the show ran without an interval which made it a too lengthy. Hopefully by now it will have been split in half so the playing time will be more comfortable.

Tickets at R110 include a three-course meal. Starters are a Savoury Smoked Chicken Roulade or a Creamy Lentil Soup sprinkled with bacon and feta. I had the soup which was very pleasant and those at my table who had it said the chicken was enjoyable. For the main course there is Spicy (and it IS spicy!) Oriental Lamb Ragout or Baked Paprika Seasoned Fillet of Linefish, the latter pronounced leathery by the others. The dessert is Black Cherry Biscuit Trifle.

To book, phone Royal Reservations on (031) 304-0331.There were several mix-ups with names on opening night so it would be wise to confirm your booking on the day. It is also important to remember that the Backstage is a training ground for the hotel staff so you need to exercise a little patience sometimes!

Smokers - please be reminded that with the new legislation the Backstage is a non-smoking area. However, you can always nip down the passage to the bar for a quick puff at interval or between courses.




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