Soli Philander. Picture: Supplied
How does one define Cape Town?

The Mother City means so many things to so many different people and unfolding its true character is most certainly not an easy task.

Watching Soli Philander unveil the complexities of the Mother City one may become wiser but it also raises questions about the multi-textured tourist hotspot and/or the place we call home.

Like any city in the world, how we look at it depends on who we are and where we live, and that’s what Philander gets across in his travelogue/commentary and tribute to the place where he was born and bred.

'Lekker Jas' has a dual meaning: in Cape coloured slang it’s a play on words meaning “nice jacket” (which Philander sports as he comes on stage), or “nice threads”; or can be used to praise a nice set of wheels - “your car is jas”; but it can also be used to insult a person - meaning “you’re crazy”, or “you have to be kidding”; or it has sexual connotations which are not too complementary.

Using this dual meaning is also a way to describe Cape Town - its beauty and its harshness.

Philander opens with a rhyming sort of travelogue of Cape Town from the affluent Atlantic seaboard suburbs that are perched at the foot of the mountain overlooking the sea; to the lush affluent suburbs, down to the shanty towns of Blikkiesdorp and murder hotspot Nyanga.

Laughter and tears are evoked alternatively in this veteran actor’s way of describing places like Bishopscourt and Bonteheuwel that will make Capetonians smile but also feel uncomfortable.

Moving from describing the city’s diverse suburbs and attractions (or not), to taking a look at it’s multicultural population from all corners of the city, he goes into no-holds barred comic mode, often a laugh a minute, as he gives a portrayal of the essence of being Capetonian.

But the final third part departs from any exercise in travelogue as Philander points out the stark realities of what the majority have to face in their battle for daily survival and he makes no bones about bringing it down to race and the long-lived ongoing legacy of apartheid.

This is not the city sold to outsiders but a veteran insider’s look. And it’s not always pretty.

Whatever sense of discomfort is brought on prior to the finale is highlighted as Philander takes the conversation to another level as he ponders what it is to be not only a Capetonian but a South African on today’s political map.

Mind and memory are engaged and often it’s a difficult conversation for the audience before he takes us back to sum up his 70 minutes-plus exploration of the Mother City.

There’s much to find attractive and engaging about this highly personal and emotional tribute but a tighter package would have made it just a little more enticing.

'Lekker Jas' is on at the Baxter Theatre until July 29.