Frenetic pace dilutes underlying poignancy

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TOUCHING on everything from defrosting meat to why pills mean so much to some people, Alistair Izobell (pictured) treats the Golden Arrow Studio stage like his front stoep.

If you can define langsous, then you have lived these stories. But identifying with these stories simply increases the nostalgic value of his musings. If you have no idea what the word means, you will gain an insight into what outsiders define as eccentric behaviour on the part of coloured folk – what we simply call life.

Most of the time, Izobell saunters up and down the tiny, elaborately made-up stage – complete with a wooden bench, round table and two dustbins – as he tells stories about people he grew up with and how they influence his behaviour to this day.

In a rapid-fire delivery that may have had more to do with opening night jitters than his eventual delivery style, Izobell rapidly jumps from one family to the next as he describes growing up in Westridge, contrasting it with his current domestic situation which often feels like a lifetime away.

“I want to celebrate them because they don’t have a voice,” he says.

He tries to articulate why he thinks these stories are important, raising several laughs as he tries to understand, not only his own behaviour, but also that of his friends and family.

Izobell moves back and forth between English and Afrikaans, though he mostly sticks to English. He only occasionally breaks into song, abruptly segueing into that smooth delivery that has kept him working since he sold the Cape Argus on stage as Broertjie in District 6.

Wistfulness rules as he sings songs you haven’t heard in years, and you can’t help but chuckle as he describes a funeral in terms of the placement of specific hymns, detailing the ritual down to exactly which auntie will eventually end up in the grave.

The script could do with a bit of pruning, if only to give Izobell a chance to breathe. He races through his dialogue at a hectic pace, barely seeming to breathe. His words are distinct – it’s not like you would not understand him – but his timing needs work. The pace of the piece simply seems to be a mass of jokes upon clever jokes. This obscures the underlying melancholy and the poignancy of some very astute observations towards the end.

Guitarist Jason de Laney is underutilised, plinking away in the corner. When he does get to do more than strum while Izobell sings, it immediately changes the rhythm and pacing of the production.

But then Izobell goes back to talking, and De Laney is back in the background. Still, a backing track would totally not work, but using the musician as more of a sounding board rather than an occasional accompaniment could be interesting.

When Izobell does bring himself to sit down on the bench, he slows down ever so slightly and his remarks also gain an edge, with his musings on how we treat elderly people especially cutting.


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