Fresh pianism for the common folk


DOING it my way: Rocco de Villiers in Just Be Yourself. Photo courtesy Montecasino.

AGEING IS A funny thing. Sure, it’s about vanity and keeping up appearances; it’s about reining in the metabolism and trying not to count the wrinkles, but it’s also about the clarity to say ‘no’ to things that you hate but would have been too polite to refuse when you were younger. But there’s more. Ageing is about the courage to say ‘yes’ to your own secret plans and potentially daft creative risks. This is where you find Rocco de Villiers, armed with an acid green upright piano, shorts and long socks, in bright colours. Only the work is not daft and the creative risks are glorious.

A popular pianist of note, De Villiers doesn’t sing to anyone else’s tune, and in this show in particular, putting voema into his piano, he’s not offering what his regular audience may anticipate. There’s no beautiful hymns in this work and no recognisable standards. Instead, you get to experience the work of De Villiers, unabashed pianistically, instrumental and poetic, directly from his creative mojo. The work touches on boere musiek and country music aesthetics, but is not a slave to them. It’s unabashed and outrageous and colourful and easy to listen to.

While the repartee between the songs doesn’t always work – though there are some utterly hilarious moments – and the lighting that punctuates some of the numbers feels forced and a tad invasive, these are great instrumental songs about life, restrictions imposed and surprises earned. It’s about Biggie Best florals and the urge to count things which appear before your eyes, as it is about fitting in, or not, in a society ruled by strange and oft greedy values.

Above all, it’s a show about courage. De Villiers is, these days, something of a veteran onstage and behind the CD-recording and distributing equipment, but here he is, doing his own untested thing. And it’s a delight.

  • Rocco De Villiers: Just Be Yourself is written and performed by Rocco De Villiers, accompanied by Lizelle Le Roux (violin), Robert Mitchley (bass guitar) and Hansie Roodt (strings). It features design by Kosie Smit (lighting), Shane Enever (sound) and Rocco De Villiers (production and costumes), and performs at the Pieter Toerien Theatre, Montecasino theatre complex in Fourways, until October 14. Call 011 511-1988.

Leave a Reply