BY LATOYA NEWMAN
AFTER a 10-year hiatus from the Durban stage, Tim Plewman’s Defending the Caveman makes its way back for a short season.
Playing at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from September 7 to 17, the popular show – and longest-running solo comedy in South African theatre history – was originally written by Rob Becker and adapted for South Africa by Plewman. In an interview with Tonight, Plewman talked about how the battle-of-the-sexes show has been updated and upgraded to fit today’s world of Tweets, selfies and six million Facebook friends, all in an attempt to unpack why men and women see the world so differently.
But first we wanted to know what initially piqued his interest in this show when he first laid eyes on the script 17 years ago. “Doing a one-man show was always the epitome of the art for me. If you could be on stage doing a one-man show and hold an audience, that always seemed to be like the top of the tree for me.”
After attempting a one-man show in 1995, he’d decided he could tick that off his bucket list, but it was just too hard: “And then Rex Garner came to see me and he said: ‘Tim, read this…’, and I read this thing called Defending the Caveman and the potential of it was just enormous.
“What is was, was a definitive philosophy in an extremely funny manner attainable to every human being – man, woman, whether you were a plumber’s mate or a surgeon.
“It was a universal theme on the difference between men and women.”
But there was one problem for Plewman: “It was written in a very American kind of way that didn’t make sense to us.
“The stories weren’t South African stories. It wasn’t the way we behave in terms of the world, or the way we see the world.
“So I saw its potential, but it had to be in our voices. So I said that if they would let me rewrite the show for South Africa, then I’d look at doing it.
“They spoke to the author of the original piece and he said: ‘Go for it.’ So I re-wrote the show and that then it became the model of how they did the show in the rest of the world. The idea of bringing something that had such potential for good in society, but being so entertaining, was what initially drew me to the piece.”
Initially, Plewman thought the show was so first-rate that it would have a good six-month run at the theatre – that was 17 years ago. “I think the writing had come out right, the character I play is just an oke, a common garden oke. So nobody feels they’re being lectured to.“It is so about us. It is so about you, it is about me, it is so about every person who comes to see the show.
“Ninety-nine percent of the people who see this show walk off saying: ‘When did you put the cameras in my house?’ ” he laughed, adding: “So it touches everybody.
“You will find yourself in the play somewhere. And your husband or your partner will find you in that play somewhere. I’ve always said to people that the longer you have been in a relationship, there are problems that you have.
“So you begin to think that these problems are solely yours, or your partner’s… “Then you come to see the show and you see that, for example, everybody’s husband leaves their underpants on the floor! Well, now it’s not a problem, it’s just the way men are,” he joked.
“So Caveman makes relationships less burdensome because we realise that the ‘burden’ is common to all man and it’s just part and parcel of a relationship… learn to laugh at it, learn to live with it. Because what you didn’t know is there’s a lot of stuff that you do that is equally painful to him. And that’s the most important thing about Defending the Caveman – it has remained relevant because it’s about people and it’s about relationships and those things don’t change. Genetically, we don’t change that fast, so those internal genetic built-in syndromes that are mankind, remain with mankind.”
Commenting on the upgraded bits, he said it’s the technology that comes in: “Even though we use a cellphone instead of a notepad, the underlying emotion of how we deal with a relationship is still the same. This is why we’ve brought in to Caveman the digital world of cellphones and computers,” Plewman said.
“We talk about them because they still operate under the same manner as we did with a notepad.
“So, for example, with a notebook you’d get a love letter. And from a girl it would be 35 pages long and he would reply with a half a page. “Equally so, we get an SMS from a girl which is that long and the man replies back with a smiley face,” he joked.
“So it’s the same understanding of the situation but using a different format. In showbiz you’ve got to remain relevant.”
It’s been 10 years since Caveman last came to Durban and with only nine shows staging, early booking has been advised. Bookings are now open via Computicket: 0861 915 8000, or online at www.computicket.com.