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BANKS AT BARNYARD (article first published : 2004-09-22)

Just when I thought I’ve seen him perform so often that nothing he could do would surprise me, Mark Banks had me in stitches tonight at the opening of his show at the Barnyard Theatre in Gateway. Mark works well in this venue and, as usual, takes much delight in extracting as much humour as possible from those unsuspecting audience members he is able to see from the stage – as well as some he can only hear!

I was a little concerned that the advance publicity material clearly stated that this is a show “suitable for families” as Mark is well-known for his highly colourful dialogue. But he was true to his word, quipping that: “I don’t do the “f” word anymore” and adding that if he slipped and it came out, he would buy a round of drinks for the entire audience!

Lauding the fact that South Africans can still laugh at themselves and their problems, he then proceeds to launch into a satirical tour de force that proves he’s lost none of his robust capacity for being highly un-PC and taking the mickey out of people from all walks of life.

Nothing is sacred – particularly not politicians. George Bush and Tony Blair come in for a real battering and, closer to home, he had much to say about President Thabo Mbeki’s constant trips away from South Africa!

Catching someone opening a pizza box and drinking a Tab, he pronounced that the combination was Yellowwood Park’s equivalent of Zen! Bluff residents come under fire as he imagines “the noise of hundreds of flipflops” in the proposed tunnel to connect the Bluff “with the mainland”. He also maintains that the imposing but unattractive vast new homes on Umhlanga Ridge are proof that Durban architects have finally moved up from dagga to heroin!

Also causing gales of laughter are his notions on voicemail messages, women talking to dogs, veterinarians, grumpy bank tellers, plastic bags and how Durbanites can tell everything about anyone once they discover which school they attended!

After interval, Mark Banks changes gear and introduces two characters. A crusty Brigadier in a jacket and Panama hat recalls that the age-old maxim from the trenches – “If something sticks its head out of the trench, hit it and run like hell” would work well in the “new South Africa”.

Donning a platinum blonde wig, he then plays a woman selling package tours to a overseas tour operator. Rather than head for the game reserves, she encourages him to buy a tour that will offer far more thrills, such as The Car Hijacking Experience or the Taxi War Experience or, better still, the Mini Bus Experience where the driver drives at 180 kph with a spanner as a steering wheel.

With reality TV being so popular, perhaps Mark’s ideas could be turned into a profitable industry – turning criminals into actors as they recreate the particular scenarios!

Book early as the show only runs until September 26. Tickets R90 (no Buy One Get One Free promotions). Bookings and enquiries on 031 566 3045, e-mail gateway@barnyardtheatre.co.za or visit www.barnyardtheatre.co.za – Caroline Smart




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