After giving us Green Mamba (2002) and Black Mamba (2005), Ben Voss and John van de Ruit are back with Mamba Republic.
On why it's taken so long for this trilogy to come full circle, Van de Ruit said: “Ben and I were on the road for four years from 2002.
"We performed hundreds and hundreds of shows all over the place mostly in small venues to audiences who had seldom encountered sketch comedy before. We had terrific encounters along the way, memorable shows and learned what it took to make a living out of theatre.
“However, the years of touring took their toll and a sense of creative exhaustion eventually took hold. There was a sense that we both needed to follow our own creative paths for a while. From my side, I was finding it hard to negotiate being a full time author and continue to offer Mamba the same commitment as I had before. I never for one moment thought that Ben and I wouldn't collaborate again.”
Mamba Republic reflects on the life of a South African, suffering political fiascos and foibles.
Voss, also loved for his Beauty Ramapelepele fictional character, says, “Satire by its nature is supposed to cause some discomfort. Not to the point that the audience is alienated but enough to make us self reflect while howling with laughter.
“In fact, it is actually a satirist's job to get a nuanced feel for a nation's sensitivity and turn that into laughter. Offence is not funny, but neither are PC platitudes.
“We think the Mamba brand cleverly and unashamedly probes our sensitivity and the result is something between PC and offensive. That's where the real humour lies.”
Meanwhile, Van de Ruit says Spud is behind him. He said: “I have left the world of Spud behind because I feel that four books and the films that followed have written all that I have to say about adolescence and the progression from boyhood to manhood. I am now two years into the writing of my new book, which, fingers crossed, will hit the shelves sometime next year. It's a comic novel about an unemployed South African, living in a dingy flat in south London, who meets with unexpected infamy and misfortune.”
By the same token, Voss has been equally busy.
Ben Voss and John van de Ruit. Picture: Twitter
He explains, “Beauty Ramapelepele – my alter ego domestic worker turned business woman of the year – is my other focus. I have also shot two movies in 2016, one of which was Beyond the River directed by Craig Freimond. I have a year-end function in the Durban Botanic Gardens for two weeks every year called, Wickedly ODD – The Night Garden, which has taken off and uses dance, music, theatre, puppets and comedy to bring the gardens to life at night.”
On having Dr Mervyn McMurtry as director and designer on the show, Voss says, “Mervyn has been a revelation. He takes his role exceptionally seriously and for two goons who have largely flown by the seat of their pants it has been wonderful to have a dedicated outside eye.
“Someone as invested in the process as we are. He brings a strong design element and his direction style involves being very hands on – literally along side us on the stage when directing. He has an amazing ability to put all other people working on the production at ease too and builds a mamba family around us.”
In summing up the appeal of this show Van de Ruit says: “Funny political, social, sketch comedy that takes a broad look across the spectrum of life in South Africa. Expect to laugh, expect to cringe, and expect some great entertainment.”
* Mamba Republic is currently on at the Theatre on the Square. The show ends on August 20. Call 011 883 8606 for more information.