Arts Festival

He only had himself to blame…

UNCOMFORTABLE truths and sexist realities: Kim Blanche Adonis in He Had it Coming by Mike Van Graan. Photograph by Newton James.

FOUR LITTLE WORDS from one of the best showtune lyrics out there will turn into a delicious ear worm if you give them a chance: If you’ve watched a musical or two, He Had it Coming will get you jiving with the crimes of passion of the notorious six merry murderesses of Cook County Jail from Chicago, but under the pen of Mike van Graan and in a South African context, the material is magicked into something even spicier. Performed by relative newcomer Kim Blanché Adonis, the work is an excellent reason to travel on down to Somerset West over the public holiday next week.

Adonis sizzles on stage. She and the text she performs are both something akin to previous van Graan works, performed by Daniel Mpilo Richards – Pay Back the Curry, State Fracture and Land Acts – but Adonis takes unique ownership of the material, and she gets you to laugh out loud with the darkness necessary to recognise the brokenness in this country, for women in particular.

And yet, this work doesn’t leap willy-nilly onto the #MeToo bandwagon. Even though it deals in stereotypes as it must, and it is supported by an angry spine of disappointment for the current status quo, the jokes run thick and fast and remain fresh and biting. Adonis’s characterisation of diverse South Africans is tight and frisky, engaging and full of investment.

Indeed, in so many ways, this performer, who brings her full personality and then some onto stage, lights up the auditorium with energy. Sometimes it is the energy of sheer pathos, at other times, it is infused with the brittleness of being as close to the edge as you can imagine. Everything comes under van Graan’s gaze, from blatant haters of those who digress from so-called normalcy to the blue light brigade, and no beats are missed in this tale, even though one or two of the vignettes feel a few minutes too long, but not long enough for your grin to turn into a rictus. Or to allow your tears to dry.

He Had it Coming is a sister piece to My Fellow South Africans, a van Graan work that will enjoy a season at Theatre on the Square in Sandton from 22 August until 2 September. Mike van Graan remains one of South Africa’s most important darlings in the theatre-making world, because he has the words, the wisdom and the anger and is not afraid to string all of them together with the precision that gives them an edge that bites. Deeply. And yet, you leave with hope in your heart.

  • He Had it Coming is written and directed by Mike van Graan, with channelling direction by Daniel Mpilo Richards and Rob Van Vuuren, it is performed by Kim Blanché Adonis and performs in the Drama Factory, Somerset West, as part of the Women’s Month Festival, on 9 and 10 August 2023.

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