WITH HIS DISTINCTIVE white streak down the middle of his verdant Afro, his rubbery smile and his straight talk and complicated yarns, Marc Lottering is truly one of South Africa’s greatest treasures. His show, So I wrote that musical is performing at the Hilton Arts Festival in Pietermaritzburg, between 11 and 13 August.
He’s absolutely adorable in all the best ways, for an audience. With a river of profanity and a clutch of semi-autobiographical tales that take on everything from the ridiculousness of inverter experts to the business of watching your credit card reject a purchase in public; the biblical tale of the Red Sea to the blanket use of loadshedding as a hold-all excuse; not to forget the fierceness of Edgars’s Red Hanger sales, from some decades ago. A delicious whirligig of a show, this work is unabashed in eviscerating sensitive issues, like political inefficiency, broken promises and powerlessness. And yet, it is a human, not a political, diatribe. It’s about how you and I in the streets deal with the nonsense dished out to us.
But the thrill of Lottering that makes him not just a crowd pleaser, but the kind of entertainment magnet that has otherwise respectable looking audience members, shrieking with such unabated laughter that they have to reapply their lipstick during the show, is that he’s developed his shtick to complete perfection. His physical and mental fitness in this 80-minute show, is in itself a tonic to watch. He’s up there and at it, from side to side of a large stage, his whole body a rapid-fire machine gun of wisdoms couched in tears of laughter, with not a dull moment nor a false note. From the pony tale of a concierge to the Vaseline in your gait on day one of a holiday, he’s got it all.
The central nub of this particular show is the hilarious and powerful backside of his series of musicals premised on his character, Aunty Merle. A typical Cape Flats agony auntie he developed over years, Merle became the central figure of her own musical, it’s a tale of its own, given the kind of chutzpah he manifested in making a musical in the first place, and the kind of side-splittingly funny tales about the events that led to the work itself.
The texture of Lottering’s work is deliciously even. This is a performer who knows his audiences, his country and his stories, back to front. But he’s never arrogant in his presence. He’s ‘our Marc’ and in many ways, he is because we are. Like Pieter-Dirk Uys, he grows his scripts out of the world in which we live, and he doesn’t need to lean far to find punchlines so hilarious, they’re instant winners. The writers? The ilk of the current ANC leadership or the powers that be that are keeping Eskom broken.
Whenever Marc is hosting a season, you know you need to make space for him in your calendar. Because you are South African. Because you need that belly laugh. It’s the laughter of recognition and the kind that crinkles your face up with its farcical profanity, and it’s the best tonic for all our blues.