The Two-hander Mafeking Road depends on spot-on timing and extreme physicality since the two performers are their own props.
I meet them in a coffee shop, and they couldn’t seem more unalike. Mathew Lewis is the shorter one with the curly hair who finds a Zen moment in puppet theatre.
Andrew Laubscher is taller and shaved his head for Bernarda, in which he painted his face white and walked around in a dress which grew more elaborate as the stylised play continued.
Laubscher orders tea, Lewis gets excited about coffee, and they don’t finish each other’s sentences.
Yet, they are totally in sync as performers. So, don’t be surprised if they segue into an improv session during Mafeking Road, though the audience would be hard-pressed to point out the exact moment when the script ends and their own amusement starts.
While they have made the performance their own, they credit director Tara Notcutt with the initial spark and giving them the space to try just about anything.
Notcutt had to adapt a story for the stage in her last year at varsity and expanded that idea into an hour-long play, drawing on the stories of Herman Charles Bosman.
While Mafeking Road carries the freshness of an improv sketch, it is first and foremost about the stories, such as Willem Prinsloo’s Peach Brandy and In the Withaak’s Shadow.
During the rehearsal period she’d give the Laubscher and Lewis an idea and 10 minutes to create a sketch.
“We could do anything, that’s where a lot of the ‘anything goes’ comes from,” says Lewis.
“Wouldn’t it be funny if we did it this way?” was a constant refrain as they didn’t want to do Patrick Mynhardt, or David Butler, but put a fresh, younger spin on it.
They performed at last year’s Herman Charles Bosman Literary Festival in Groot Marico and the first thing that struck them?
“The massive potjies,” says Laubscher.
“And lots of mampoer,” quips Lewis.
The audience’s response was good because they’ve been invited back this year as the Bosman Society is intent on introducing the author’s work to a new generation.
They’re not above trying out another Bosman story for the stage, “as long as it doesn’t have props, as long as it’s just us”, muses Laubscher.
Lewis has just returned from Amsterdam and Perth where he toured with …miskien, another Pink Couch production (the same company backing Mafeking Road).
He was bemused by the Dutch artists’ response to cutbacks in their funding: “They’re running around saying: ‘How are we going to work?’ and we were saying: ‘But we always work like this.’”
Lewis noticed a preoccupation in Holland with site-specific work, while the Australians were very interested in cabaret.
He said: “We kept on getting feedback from the Dutch about how nice it was to see a story being told.”
• Mafeking Road, at Kalk Bay Theatre, tomorrow to Sept 8. Then at Aardklop Festival and The Groot Marico in October before travelling to Joburg.