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DIRECTOR: André Odendaal
CAST: Tobie Cronje, Hanna Grobler, Luan Jacobs and |André Lotter
venue: Theatre on the Bay
UNTIL: June 21
This Afrikaans version of Charles Laurence’s hit comedy My Fat Friend, reincarnated as Vettie Vettie, delivers a chuckle-a-minute, which comes as no surprise with veteran comedian Tobie Cronje centre-stage and a script replete with throw-away lines.
The plot could not be simpler: overweight woman suffering from low self-esteem encounters dream man who seems to fancy her despite her corpulence, and after months of effort to achieve the figure of a super-model, she finds… she needn’t have bothered.
Flimsy? Perhaps, but Vettie Vettie, like its English original, is saved from banality by the universal wisdom of its final message: it is the person within, not the packaging, that counts when it comes to a sense of self-worth.
Realising this and believing it is a liberating experience that leaves the female lead, as well as the audience, in an upbeat mood at the end of the show.
The comedy of Vettie Vettie depends on dialogue and paradox rather than on characterisation, so the four personae of the cast do not evolve significantly in the course of the action.
As they appear on first entry, so they remain until final exit. There are no heroes and no villains; all are more or less amiable, if flawed.
Henry (Cronje) is sardonic and dapper, inquisitive as a cat but not heartless – he is genuinely fond of his unhappy, well-upholstered housemate Vicky, played by Hanna Grobler.
She is neurotic and self-absorbed, but redeemed by an endearing need to be loved, which makes her human and vulnerable.
The third member of this unconventional household, James (Luan Jacobs), is a highly eccentric, sweetly biddable gourmet cook (the kiss of death for a woman needing to shed some kilos). He has a total disregard for any furniture impeding his progress around a room, which generates some slapstick comedy in its own right.
André Lotter as Tom, the object of Vicky’s adoration, has the rugged good looks to justify female infatuation, but his character development is minimal, since his appearances are few and brief.
The players are well cast with the exception of Grobler, who is too elegant to convince as an elephantine woman; she is seen to far better advantage in the second half of the play after her voluminous trappings have been shed to reveal the shapely person beneath.
In Act One she moves too briskly and has too much energy to look the part.
Little topical touches like references to Nkandla are introduced, anchoring Vettie Vettie into a contemporary South African context and spicing up a text already rich in satire as we follow Vicky’s progress from whale to sylph.
Altogether a delightful, well-directed piece of entertainment which has lost nothing in translation.