There’s an old saying, steeped in ancient culture and belief, that an afternoon of laughter is good for the soul. Well, maybe it doesn’t go quite like that, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to spend the first day of the Festival with a comedy marathon in search of a good, extended laugh.
First up, Scout Hall at noon for Siv Ngesi’s Dekaf. After debuting with the stand-up show here last year, Ngesi brings more laughs to this Festival with a more jazzed-up and polished routine.
And yes, Ngesi goes to town with the black jokes that no white comedian would dare to go near.
“If I did the show in America, it would be called DeNig,” says Ngesi, explaining the title of his act.
The talented young comedian leaves no subject sacred, from pocking fun at white beggars in the post-apartheid era to putting on black accents when speaking to petrol attendants.
Race forms a huge part of the act and some of the material is pretty outrageous, but Ngesi manages to move the laughs along with an easy narrative and a certain comfort on the stage.
From one man stand-up to a one-man show. I hurried off to the Library Hall to see Dirt, a riot of a play that tells the story of three friends on a road-trip to Cape Town for a funeral. How could it not be funny with a plot like that?
James Cairns plays the role of seven characters (and a dog) almost seamlessly. The laughs lie in the actor’s ability to bounce between – and deliver – the personalities of the unique but equally comical characters.
The wonderfully crafted story uses its hilarity to make a point. As Grant, a man terrified of his “postnatal” wife, says at the eulogy of the funeral: “Friends are bullshit without the shit that keeps them together.”
After scurrying to St Andrew’s Hall for the next show at 4pm, my feet were in agony – but that was nothing, compared to the punishment to my sides from laughing throughout NATV Live in Grahamstown.
The “live television” show, directed by Ben Voss, comes together as a ridiculously funny assortment of skits and parodies.
Short acts on the show (“filmed in front of a live studio audience!”) features characters such as Afrikaans singing sensation Kirk Darren (no, not Kurt, but just as relentless) and Victoria Greenbelt – a psychic who “knows” that someone in the crowd has lost a dog at some time or another.
The humour is about as sophisticated as Vernon Koekemoer, but that’s precisely what has you in stitches.
The actors clearly enjoy themselves with a sharp, witty, sometimes improvised script, and even end with a memorable song that tells you that you should have booked for a World Cup game rather than settling for a “shitty NATV ticket”.
After five hours, and three shows, I left the hall heavy-footed, but light-hearted. The laughter fed my soul. It’s a crying shame that the ancients didn’t build that saying in somewhere.
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