YOU’VE GOT TO hand it to Harry Sideropoulos. As he pounces onto the stage, you fall completely in love with his gusto and energy, his gentle booming whisper and the fluid repartee that is Seriously?!, a show created by him in collaboration with Strato Copteros and Gina Shmukler in a Johannesburg space that doesn’t market itself as a theatre: it’s a pop-up venue that you need to get to before it vanishes.
On a level this stand up comedy show is everything it promises to be. It delivers a kick in the pants to more established theatre environments in bypassing the bureaucracies and making it happen somewhere else, and the Killarney Country Club in Houghton Estate is absolutely ideal for this. It recalls the Balalaika Hotel’s rejuvenation in this capacity, a few months ago.
The text of the work takes the incredulity that someone of 45 has, really, toward the rapidity at which our world is being redefined by youth culture, acronyms and the golem of social media. And the stories he accounts hit the mark: you know them well – the guy who posted a video on facebook of his Greek holiday and said things that came back to bite him when it went viral; the stalker who watches the ups and downs of relationships among his facebook friends, simply because it’s there; the shallow narcissist who has a whole protocol of selfie posting on his Instagram account; the way in which we have learnt to flip between real life, the news as it unfolds in 280-character instalments and fake news; the repurposing of terms such as ‘lol’ and ‘twit’, and so it goes.
Sideropoulos leaves no stone unturned, also taking on the ludicrous ends to which the foodie industry stretches to be novel and get more people to pay, and the fads come and go. He embraces the material with an almost conspiratorial tone, and hits the mark every time.
Clocking in at just over an hour, the work is dense with punch lines and caveats, so much, that sometimes it feels too rich in detail to stomach all at once. Also, the booms and clashes, the flashing lights and stage smoke for emphasis are too big for the space. The show is, admittedly, not rotten with these effects, but when they do come, you can feel them in your shoes and teeth and this detracts from the words themselves.
It’s a fine show, but given Sideropoulos’s fabulous theatrical reputation and multiple skills on stage, you yearn to reach beyond the self-deprecating humour and laugh-a-second material, to something deeper, richer, more real. This almost happens at the show’s closing moments, but not sufficiently. Sideropoulos is a fantastic vocal lead: and there may still be a strong memory of him in a golden suit singing gorgeous standards at the Auto and General Theatre on the Square in Sandton, in years gone by, in many of his fans’ hearts.
- Seriously?! is written by Strato Copteros and Harry Sideropoulos and directed by Gina Shmukler. It is performed by Harry Sideropoulos in the Crystal Room, Killarney Country Club in Houghton Estate, Johannesburg, until June 16. Bookings through quicket.co.za or call 082 830 3571.