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

THE LOSER (article first published : 2001-08-18)

The thing one remembers most after seeing a show by Aaron McIlroy is his extraordinary energy and commitment to whatever production he happens to be presenting. The Loser, his hilarious show lampooning motivational speakers, is now running at the Langoustine Theatre by the Sea and pulling audiences in by the droves.

Halfway into the recent Standard Bank National Arts Festival, Aaron had already notched up two positions in the top ten best-selling fringe productions with The Loser and Belly Laughs, the show he appeared in with his wife Lisa Bobbert. The Loser recently completed a season at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, performing to full houses and this was my second viewing of it, in order to see how it fared in a different venue.

The production also falls within the 2001-2002 FNB Vita award judging year. And as one of the judges, I needed to view it in that context. There has been much mention in the local press that Aaron was “excluded” from the last FNB Vita awards. This is incorrect. The judging form did not appear to have been submitted to FNB Vita for ongoing presentation to the judges which is why the production was “excluded” from the judging list. The onus for the submission of forms is on the producers or the venues and it is also advisable that these organisations ensure that the judges get to see the production. In the case of the Langoustine, this procedure is now properly in place and hopefully such a situation will not occur again.

That aside and with the Sneddon run still clearly in my memory, I knew what to expect from the show. This time, I took some friends with me and their reaction prompted me to think how easy it is to slip into the mould of “I knew what to expect” and adopt a fairly blasé attitude towards our fine crop of actors and actresses in Durban. Seeing a show out of the “opening night” context surrounded by “real” people, ie those who actually pay money for their tickets and keep theatre alive, I found myself revisiting the fact that Aaron is an extremely consummate performer.

I enjoyed the reactions of my companions as much as I enjoyed Aaron’s performance. And one member of the party, a renowned cynic, encapsulated my feelings exactly when he announced that any actor who could get a bunch of adults on their feet performing inane hand movements ending with a “Superman” swoop had to have a great deal going for him!

In The Loser, Aaron plays a string of completely zany characters on stage and also on screen, sometimes accompanied by Lisa. These range from armless Seamus O’Shea and a spaced out Rod Stewart lookalike to genial Bruce “You Must Wake Up, My Boy” Moodley.

Direction is by Sue Monteregge, with music direction by Tim Pullen and lighting design by Mike Broderick and the show features the music of Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Shel Silverstein, Tom Waits, Lou Vega and a range of Elvis tunes.

Tickets include a three course meal. Starters are Homemade Cream of Tomato Soup and Duo of Avocado Mousse and Seafood Cocktail. I chose the latter and it was enjoyable. I opted for the Roast Leg of Lamb on the main course which turned out to be succulent and nicely seasoned. My companion who had the other choice, Brinjal and Zucchini Lasagne, pronounced it agreeable. For dessert there’s a suitably decadent Meringue Pavlova with Ice Cream and Strawberry Compote.

The show runs until September 2. Book at Computicket or the Langoustine on (031) 563-7324 – if you can get in! – Caroline Smart.




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