two in the bush
DIRECTOR: Jaci de Villiers
MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Rowan Bakker
CAST: Kate Normington and Ilse Klink
VENUE: Auto & General Theatre on the Square, Sandton
UNTIL: July 19
RATING: 4 stars (out of 5)
WITH Two in the Bush, you can totally go bossies. Let’s face it: South African theatre has, for the most part, been serious for far too long. The country’s chequered past was perhaps partly to blame, while commercial companies mainly focused on overseas comedies and farces, often translated. Some managements still follow this route, because it’s all about survival.
One can try to investigate any audience’s response factually and emotionally in the greatest detail, but at the end of the day, it all boils down to the levels of shared enjoyment and understanding each new indigenous play, revue, cabaret, musical or pantomime brings along with it.
In this show with Normington and Klink, the stars, entertainers and singers, it is especially the writing and their stage presence that is the key that opens up everything concerning the often elusive make-or-break X-factor. Normington’s writing skills have been honed through her experience and versatility as a singer, actress, and voice artist in diverse musicals and theatrical genres, including industrial theatre.
It obviously has been part of her quest to open up aspects of the real cloak-and-dagger world behind the curtains, in dressing rooms, during auditions, voice-overs and advertising jingles.
In staging these interactions between actors, directors and producers, she also received help from well-known theatrical personalities such as Greg Viljoen, Russell Savadier, and Jaci de Villiers, the director of this show who handles its diverse nature with obvious confidence and pungency.
Within this tightly controlled revue structure, Klink is an unmissable link in this toothy show. It was especially in the Corporate Medley – well-known hits which were adapted and carried advertising lingo for a range of everyday products such as soap and vodka – that the playing-off element between her and Normington was most effective and often hilarious.
Bakker at the piano is a strong presence. Not driven by any ego-related intrusions, but doing his job with style, a great understanding of his songbirds’ needs combined with his solid musical grounding, the spontaneity of the show only very seldom flounders.
The range of songs, many lesser known, is one of the great attractions of Two in the Bush. Whatever Happened to My Party from the forthcoming production of Spamalot set the tone for the evening. They’ve also summed up our now more open-minded and liberated audiences well by including Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist, rather an edgy, but still fun song which might help us to get rid of the oversensitivity towards the subject.
Klink is fabulous in He Was My Boyfriend (Mel Brooks) and I’m Still Here (Stephen Sondheim), while the sketch about Trellidor doors is hilarious, and obviously one which only South Africans can fully appreciate.
Normington reflected the right emotional aura in her interpretation of Surabaya Santa (Jason Robert Brown), while her portrayal of the old(er) actress at an awards ceremony – written by the late Gaby Lomberg for which Paddy Canavan was the obvious inspiration – was spot-on.
The Patricia de Lille/Hellen Zille sketch looked and sounded somewhat passé in the post-election climate, but their deep investigation into the role of critics and what they came up with, was a scream.
Their introduction, “a critic is someone who goes to the battlefield and shoots the survivors”, is a quote one will never forget.
Some details in Two in the Bush might only be fully understood by the initiated, but this is no reason for not seeing it. In this case, there’s no doubt that the bush telegraph will be constantly buzzing.