Sport as a laughter impetus

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TO NDR Christiaan INLSA DURBAN 151106 Actor Thomie Holtzhausen. PICTURE: SHERELEE CLARKE

SLAM poetry meets comedy and satire in The Offside Rule – a fresh concept from a fresh mind.

Christiaan du Plessis (pictured) is no stranger to local stage, having most recently performed in Consenting Silence and Just Yours.

With The Off-side Rule the young artist has now taken his first step in the playwright direction. His play which is on at the Catalina Theatre. The play puts the spotlight on sport, and in particular men gone wrong. Tackling issues of the way that sports and its politics “shape” men, and questioning the notion of masculinity, the play also makes satirical reference to current South African sports stars.

In a chat with Tonight, Du Plessis explained how his idea evolved from his university days. “The idea started as an idea for an honours project… we’d done a slam poetry semester with Iain Ewok Robinson and I enjoyed that a lot, and I’ve always been in my element when it comes to comedy.

“So I tried to figure out how I could combine the two to create a good, educational story… something I feel passionate about. I thought political satire had been overdone and I wanted to do something else that we as South Africans can relate to. Sport is something that just popped up instantly.”

Du Plessis said the entire play followed a sort of a low-budget television programme format where comedy skits, slam poetry and photographic visuals were infused on stage.

“I found that comedy is a relief for people. As soon as you start laughing, you forget about what has been said, but it’s still in the back of your mind. And then you come with the slam poetry and you say something truthful.

“Something that we feel passionate about. And it all revolves around the notion of what it means to be a man and how sport comes into play with this,” he explained.

“In the show so far. I’ve found that even women come up to us and say, ‘so this is what you men go through’… which is nice because initially (in its early development) the show focused on females not being appreciated in sport. But in this show we are four men. We’ve tweaked it a bit to deal with issues of what we have to go through to ‘be a man’, dealing with the definition of what is a man…” he added.

But for Du Plessis the reality is that there is no real “label” that can be assigned to being manly. “Masculinity is just something where, as people, in order to understand things better, we label things, like ‘that’s a man’s sport’ or ‘that’s a women thing’… Although we have slowly been breaking down barriers.

“Today women are in construction, men are flight attendants and so on. So there is no real line for manhood and woman- hood… A man doesn’t need to play rugby or be the bully… I wanted to use theatre to tell this story.”

Having dabbled in some acting, trained with the Flatfoot Dance Company for two years, and now written his first play, Du Plessis said he still wanted to explore more in the arts: “At this stage I’m trying to learn as much as possible.

“I would definitely say I lean a lot more towards comedy but I’ve also never been one to say no to a challenge.

“I definitely see more acting, writing and directing for me in future. I want to still achieve going on to television, but I will definitely stay in theatre. Theatre is any performer’s home.”

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