And would you some jam on that, sir?


WAITRESS and tea things, complete with black eye rings of exasperation. Photograph courtesy

ANYONE WHO HAS suffered the busy indignity of having to be a waiter in a coffee shop will relate to this punchy, spicy little foray into the horror and sarcasm, the do’s and don’ts of this, one of the oldest professions in the book. More a monologue with vignettes, Sjarrap en eet jou kos! (Shut up and eat your food!) is a delightful Afrikaans-language radio theatre gem, which will have you laughing with gusto and weeping just a tad in the frisky nuanced approach taken by Ilné Fourie in its construction.

It’s an hilarious lament about poorly-behaved, indecisive, rude and ill-tipping customers and their children and or lovers – or their gossip pals, and as such, the work presents a portrait of Afrikaans culture, not withholding punches with its description and engagement with the different types of people. The vantage point of the ubiquitous waiter (played by Martelize Kolver) who is there to serve, but also often morphs into a proverbial fly on the wall, is a fascinating one, something which you may have tasted a suggestion of in works as diverse as Lionel Newton’s 2014 play Jasmine’s Jewel and Lauri Wylie’s (1963) film Dinner for One. It’s about taking the mundane, and lifting it, with incisive and witty observations, into art.

Under the gentle scathing of Fourie’s sharp pen, you get introduced to the ‘M & M’s (moedige – courageous – moms) who are relentless in peppering their language with diminutives, particularly in dealing with stroppy littlies. The ‘turtledoves’ are the newly infatuated who will share a cup of coffee while they toss embarrassingly syrupy sweetnesses to each other. And then there are the ‘vluister vroutjies’ (whispering little wives) who gather around their tea treats to indulge in exploring the doings and the screwings of their nearest and dearest. To say nothing of the coffee snobs; the guy who wants different parts of his egg cooked at different frequencies; and the picky madams who vie between the restrictions of banting and their own basic ignorance of what goes into food.

But that’s not all. There are also the people for whom you become an uninvited guest in their delicate private moments, moments which make you remember why life is indeed beautiful.

Sjarrap is a lovely holiday play which celebrates the heart and cuisine of what it takes to exist in this country, in certain pockets, where the harshness of dinner table discipline bears fruit.

And it’s as good a reason to stay at home by the wireless this evening, as anything.

  • Sjarrap en eet jou kos! (Shut up and eat your food) is written by Ilné Fourie. Directed by Eben Cruywagen, and featuring technical input by Cassi Lowers, it is performed by Gina Assanté, Susanne Beyers, Ludwig Binge, Roeline Daneel, Martelize Kolver, Leon Kruger and Chris Majiedt. It debuted on RSG in November 2016 and is presented this evening, December 28 at 8pm. It will be rebroadcast on January 1 at 1am in RSG’s Deurnag programme. It is also available on podcast:
  • RSG can be found on 100-104FM, on DStv channel 913 or live on



A play that makes the world turn on an avocado


Lucy and me: Matshediso Mokoteli embraces the harrowing tale of Paul Noko’s ‘Fruit’ with wisdom and depth. Photograph by Andrew Brown.

A YOUNG girl quietly talks of life, the universe and everything to her plastic doll, with the kind of illogical quietude and gentle give-and-take that little children adopt when in conversation with their toys. Thus opens arguably one of the most powerful, well defined and  ingenious plays that we in this city have been privileged to see, in a long time. Paul Noko’s Fruit brings together all the central principles of grand theatre in this low-budget, taut work, where the main grown-up protagonists are stones with faces drawn onto them, and an urban geography is cast by small cartons and pieces of community detritus.

But avocados will never be the same again. In a tour de force performance which recalls what Lara Foot did to the understanding of a cabbage leaf in Karoo Moose and what Lionel Newton and Andrew Buckland did to the understanding of a watermelon in The Well Being, 19-year-old performer Matshediso Mokoteli renders the humble avocado a repository of hope and violence, terrible cruelty and great loss.

As you take your seat in the audience, you are immediately and irrevocably plunged into the quirky chilling blend of fantasy and reality that unfolds in the whimsical portrayal of a community in an informal settlement. The characters are well developed and curious. Their interface is about the camaraderie that comes of living with scant resources, but also of being in the proverbial same boat as your neighbour. And the trajectory is an unstoppable one which you know will end with tears and horror, but you can’t look away.

There’s ugliness and drunkenness and loss and brokenness, but there’s also beauty and felicitation. And there’s a baby, who suffers the horrors of neglect, abandonment and abuse in the most harrowing context. But the whole trajectory of this baby’s life is relayed in a sing-song frankness, which not only embraces it with the kind of sophistication that doesn’t allow you to turn away even through accounts of incest and arson, but rather it mesmerises you to your moral core.

This is the kind of play which defines powerful storytelling in the least sensationalist and wisest way possible. In so doing, it soars above and beyond the notion of artifice, as it conveys the nub and texture of the horror yet joy of life in an indigent society. There is no romanticising of poverty here, no political grandstanding. The story is told as it happens, and this frank splaying of happenings makes it sing.

  • Fruit is written and directed by Paul Noko. It is performed by Matshediso Mokoteli and was the winner of the Zabalaza Theatre Festival in Cape Town in 2015. It enjoyed a short season earlier this month at the Pop Arts Theatre, in Maboneng, downtown Johannesburg.

Slab’s Pale Natives passes the test of time with distinction

The guys: Lionel Newton, James Cairns, Antony Coleman, Iain Paton and Ashley Dowds. Photograph by Ruphin Coudyzer.

The guys: Lionel Newton, James Cairns, Antony Coleman, Iain Paton and Ashley Dowds. Photograph by Ruphin Coudyzer.

  If you were white, young and English-speaking in the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s in South African suburbia, you may’ve been privy to a particular lexicon of words like ‘tit’ (nice), ‘jislaaik’ (an expression of wonder), ‘kotch’ (vomit) and ‘boghouse’ (toilet). We were under cultural embargo. Apartheid was rife. The army had every young white man in its cross-hairs. And the culture of the time was tinctured by the bravado-filtered-hypocrisy specific to white South Africa in the run up to the first democratic elections in 1994. This alphabet of idiosyncratic values was embraced by playwright/performer Paul Slabolepszy; what a treat it is to see one of his classic dramas grace our stages again. Paying tribute to the late Bill Flynn who originally reprised the role of powder-blue-safari-suited Eddie, who whips up the comic element of the piece with astonishing savvy and is played now by James Cairns, this play is simply brilliant. It serves you a slice of nostalgia, rich with triggers to make you laugh, cry and remember, its sophisticated comic timing defines serious moments forever. Five guys in their mid-forties arrange a stag party. They were schoolmates 25 years ago. Each is a sensitively crafted, beautifully performed stereotype, which you recognise instinctively. Eddie is not overburdened, with his hilarious blend of stability, ineptitude and folly. He’s a rising damp specialist with a wife and kids. His earnest doggishness protects him from the nuanced bigger picture. Roux (Antony Coleman) is a loser to his fingertips, in his green shirt and striped wide tie. He’s living in his garden shed while his marriage crumbles. Ashley (Ashley Dowds) is the one who ‘made it’. Though he drives a flashy car, he has skeletons in his closet. With his combed, neatness, he’s the one you creditably picture as the boy who’d rather read than be in a rugby scrum. Many-married Dave (Iain Paton) is the foil for their party: it’s the eve of his third wedding. And then there’s Kyle (Lionel Newton). His teenaged swearing and fornicating credentials earned him his peers’ awe. Today, in a t-shirt under a dressy jacket, with his cigarette clasped between index finger and thumb, he reels from a life lived in the shadow of one-upmanship. Pale Natives is a coming of age story, not structurally very different from Cairns’ play ‘Dirt’. In crafting it, Slabolepszy held up a mirror to white South Africa on democracy’s cusp, rotten as it was with embedded racism and homophobia. He’s spiced heavily it with slang, an interface with local ad slogans and songs like Procol Harum’s A Whiter Shade of Pale, and others from the 1960s. In flaying open ordinary society, the play reveals poetry in the unlikeliest of situations. Not only about a stag party, it touches the core of life and death, success and failure. Armed with invectives against privilege, cigarette smoke and hard liquor, it never slips to sweetness, but runs with delicious fluidity that belies its two-hour length.

  • Pale Natives, written by Paul Slabolepszy and directed by Bobby Heaney is at the Market Theatre until May 11 (011)832-1641.
  • This review was first published by the SA Jewish Report:

    Berk: “Raising capital SA filmmaking’s biggest challenge right now”

    “I’m always happy to be there,” says veteran television director Barry Berk. He refers to the seven SAFTA (South African Film and Television Awards) nominations his debut feature film Sleeper’s Wake earned, for best film, best director, best writer, best actor, best editor, best cinematographer, best sound design. Last weekend, it walked off with best cinematographer (Willie Nel).

    He spoke to My View on the eve of the announcement of the SAFTA winners for 2014. “I’ve had a plethora of nominations, but very few wins.” Berk, who has twice been a judge on the SAFTA panel, shot to prominence after winning a best director award in the early 1990s.

    The idea of making Alaistair Morgan’s eponymous 2012 debut thriller novel into a film was suggested to Berk by the writer Damon Galgut. It tells of a transgressive relationship: 46-year-old John Wraith survives a car accident in which his wife and daughter are killed. He had fallen asleep at the wheel. And then there’s 17-year-old Jackie with demons and traumas of her own.

    “I read it and I loved it,” says Berk. “I gave it to a producer friend of mine, Ken Kaplan and we set up making it.

    “Raising capital”, is in his opinion the film industry’s biggest challenge in local filmmaking today. “It’s difficult because very few South African films see a return. This has to do with the size of our cinema-going population. On the other hand, our ticket prices are very cheap. If you go and see cinema on the West End, you would pay about £18 or £20.

    “And then there’s quality. Because our budgets are so small, because the return is so small, it’s very difficult to make a film. People who go and see movies want to escape for an hour and a half. They’re not always willing to take the chance to see locally made shows – they might come onto satellite television.

    “One solution is we start creating films we can export. The only way you can make money is if you sell overseas. Even if you do incredibly well here, not [slapstick SA humour veteran, Leon] Schuster-well, but in the R10 000 000 to R15 000 000 bracket, you’re earning a bit of money, but it’s not two years’ worth of work.

    “Everyone gets paid. Except me. On Sleeper’s Wake, I reinvested my fees into the film,” he says, speaking of a dream film that’s been knocking around in his head for years, set in 1790 in the Cape and premised on true stories within slave culture. But, he confesses, wouldbe funders pall at the idea of this idea: it’s too expensive.

    He supports the idea of crowd funding, but concedes that the budget for making a film is too high for projects like kickstarter or indiegogo. “Barmitzvah money,” is the source he laughingly says you go to for film funding. “Private money.”

    Berk was born in Cape Town, studied drama at UCT and film at New York University. He directed the second season of the watershed SA television series Yizo Yizo in the late 1990s, a couple of years after returning from New York.

    He came to film out of sheer love. “My dad had a 16mm projector. He loved films. On Saturday nights, he and my mom would go to the movies. On a Sunday mornings we would get together with my folks in their bed and he would ‘tell us’ the movie.

    “In 1993, on the cusp of 1994, I was planning a thesis film and I just thought, why am I making another film about America? I realised I wanted to be in South Africa.

    “I got a break with New Directions who commissioned me to make a film called Angels about two Bergies living in Cape Town and won Best Director at the industry awards of the time.

    “Then things came up. Curious Pictures which is now Quizzical Pictures approached me for jobs,” he subsequently directed and had a hand in writing the SABC 3 series The Lab and Gaz’lam, for SABC 1, amongst other projects.

    “I have my toe in the pond,” he offers about current projects. “I’m writing a script for someone, but I’m also recording music with Laurie Levin, from home. Music is my first love, before film; now I’m producing, recording, engineering, even putting together ditties, but I’m a little reticent to sing.” Digital equipment for recording is affordable enough to create a CD and market it from home.

    Berk is optimistic about the future of film in South Africa. “We’re making more films than ever, annually. What we have to do is be able to market our films overseas. The same way that back in the 1970s and 1980s, there was Australian film. Everyone cited Australian film and wanted to see it because it’s Australian film. If we can get there, we create a brand South African film, then this industry that can really start flying.”