Comedy sketches from cult writer

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TO NDR Karl V1.jpg

HE is a writer who many may not know, but his is a comic genius which has inspired and informed gener- ations of writers, performers, physical theatre practitioners and comedians; including Bertolt Brecht, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy – and to an extent the Mr Bean character.

Dr Pamela Tancsik is clearly very passionate about Bavarian writer Karl Valentin.

Tancsik is directing a compilation of five knock-about absurdist comedy sketches from the cult Bavarian writer, dubbed Karl Valentin in Africa. This marks a first English translation of his works, and a first for Africa.

The lecturer at the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT) Drama School explains her passion for Valentin: “I’m from Bavaria, Munich is my home town and this playwright is extremely well known there. But hardly anyone outside of there knows him because his works are written in German and not translated in any other language.”

But Tancsik, with the assistance of theatre practitioner Gisele Turner, has translated five of Valentin’s works which will be staged from February 23 to March 1 at DUT’s Courtyard Theatre.

“I translated into basic English and Gisele then translated it into a stage-able script… I chose the works that I thought would be easiest to be understood in terms of culture and language.

“Karl Valentin mostly based his works on poverty, because he wrote before and just after World War II. With our socio-economic circumstances, especially in KwaZulu-Natal, it will be easy to relate to his material.”

The five works to be staged are Slaps, The Repaired Spotlight, The Visit to the Theatre, The Photographic Studio and House and Home. “House and Home is my own work, but influenced by his ‘anarchist’ method.”

Aside from acquiring the rights to translate and stage Valentin’s works, Tancsik also secured permission from Bavarian authorities to show films that were made of The Repaired Spotlight, The Visit to the Theatre and The Photographic Studio.

“We used these as a point of reference for the students who will be performing, but we will also be screening these during intervals.”

• Karl Valentin in Africa stages February 23 to March 1 at the Courtyard Theatre, 7pm daily. Tickets are R35 at the door.

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