Joburg theatre lovers and fans of Marc Lottering are in for a treat this month as Aunty Merle, The Musical finally hits the Joburg Theatre stage.
Chatting to the local comedian and playwright Lottering, who stars as Aunty Merle, I couldn’t resist but ask why it took over a year for the show to come to Joburg in spite of numerous requests by fans and theatregoers.
“When we started in Cape Town, I wrote to potential sponsors and nobody would give R10 to the show, and to produce the show cost more than a million rand. So I had to put my flat on the market to fund the show.
“So we knew already in Cape Town that they were no investors, so there was no way I could think about flights, accommodation, not just for the actors but for the directorial team, which came to 35 people and the show runs for a month.”
Lottering managed to bring to life his 20-year vision of “Aunty Merle” against all odds. “And the minute we opened in Cape Town, everyone from Joburg started saying ‘we’re not taking no for an answer, the show has to come to Joburg’.
“So I had to make a plan, and because the show has been so successful in Cape Town, we were able to take that money, and channel it to the Joburg Theatre for the running costs, so here we are bringing the show to the people.”
The story centres around Aunty Merle’s daughter, Abigail, who is ready to marry her white boyfriend.
As the musical takes its twists and turns, Abigail realises that not everyone is happy for her, including her corrupt ex, Denver Paulse, who is determined to win her back. If not, Denver threatens to reveal a very dark secret which is bound to tear the lovers apart.
Aunty Merle, The Musical is a boiling pot of love, laughter, race, gender, politics, culture clashes, inequality, and all things Mzansi.
Directed by multi award-winning Lara Foot, Aunty Merle, The Musical boosts four Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards nominations and three sold-out seasons in the Mother City. Lottering said he knew from the very beginning that Foot was the right woman for the job.
“It was very important that I work with someone who knew me and understands my vision. And everybody was like ‘are you crazy, you do comedy and Lara Foot does deep, profound stuff, how are you guys going to work together?’, but Lara directed me before in Scrooge and we got on like house on fire. “We’ve had an ongoing relationship, and I don’t think it’s going to stop here.”
Lottering said Aunty Merle was inspired by his mom her two friends.
“The amazing thing is when my mom and her friends watched Merle, they used to say she reminds them of a friend of theirs and my family would be dying with laughter, saying ‘can’t you see your own dress’.”
It’s evident that Aunty Merle has played a pivotal role in Lottering’s life, the 51-year-old comedian inked “Aunty Merle” on his arm. “We went out for drinks with two friends and we said ‘guys we’re getting old… let’s just have one more tattoo.’”
Three of them decided the tattoo must be something they’re “not going to regret”.
“I will never regret Auntie Merle, she has turned out to be a life-changing experience.”
Lottering said he didn’t tell anyone what tattoo he will get until him and his friends got to the tattoo shop.
But it was the tattoo artist’s reaction when Lottering finally revealed what he wanted inked on his arm that stole the show.
The artist went to the bathroom to Google Aunty Merle. Meanwhile, everyone was dying with laughter.
“I kept it a secret because I didn’t want to be talked out of it.
“And because my supporters have been asking for the tattoo, the stick-on tattoos will be on sale at the Joburg Theatre.”
With 22 songs on the show, Lottering shares his favourite track, which will soon be played on radio.
“My favourite song is Someone Else, it’s sung by Lydia and we’re getting it recorded because some radio stations want to play it.”
On what makes this show a must-see: “The funny is there so they will see the funny comedian Marc Lottering, hear the funny stuff in the play but we go to some very serious South African places in the show as well, which we don’t want to shy away from.”
Aunty Merle, The Musical opened on Friday, February 1. Tickets from R145. Visit www.joburgtheatre.com for more information.