A scene from Aunty Merle with Marc Lottering in the forefront.
A scene from Aunty Merle with Marc Lottering in the forefront.

'Aunty Merle - It's a Girl' is a winner

By Orielle Berry Time of article published Dec 19, 2019

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There can be few better ways to end off the year or to start the new one than by watching 'Aunty Merle - It's A Girl'.

For those who saw Aunty Merle last year and thought this heart-warming and hilarious show could not be topped - think again. The hugely talented writer, comedian and multi-faceted entertainer Marc Lottering has created a sequel to the shenanigans of the well-loved aunty of Belgravia Road in Athlone, her family, in-laws and bestie.

It's so funny that it had me laughing till the tears were running down my face and likewise, the packed house of rapt audience members were slapping their thighs and hooting out in enjoyment. 

Marc Lottering as Aunty Merle and her best friend Soraya Samsodien played by Carmen Maarmen. Picture: Lindsey Appolis

With the original Aunty Merle enjoying no fewer than four seasons it looks like the new show will be doing just the same.Lottering sets the latest five years down the line when Aunty Merle is turning 60 and her daughter Abigail has been married for several years to Alan, who hails from Bantry Bay.

The play slash musical plus comic commentary on life, love and everything else, has a magnificent run-up to the much touted, all-important announcement that daughter and son-in-law have to make to her and husband Dennis. Because Aunty Merle considers it so vital she takes it upon herself to invite her gay son Carl and his partner Siya, Alan's parents David and Claire, and her best friend and confidante Soraya Samsodien to her home.

It's really brilliant stuff - taking life's little moments and turning them into incidents of gossip big and small. Aunty Merle's life with Dennis is one that has endured some ups and downs but, as she admits, the life she would have without hubby would not only be the poorer but filled with a great sense of emptiness. 

Nachas is a Yiddidh word insinuating great pride that one generally gets from children and it's just as applicable here where Merle, despite her own shortcomings has a worldy-wise way when it comes to understanding human nature.

Her gay son is happy and that is the main thing and her in-laws, as she's sharp enough to ascertain (despite some competitiveness), are decent people and aunty's love for both son and daughter is dosed out in equal increments. 

Siya's mother Mandisa (fabulously played by Zoleka Helesi) has a Ben10 called Glen, who is happy to enjoy the benefits of having a sugar mommy but when Glen's homophobia comes to the fore as far as his "step-father" Siya and partner Carl are concerned, he finally gets his just dessert.

There are many and frequent moments of absolute hilarity and on-point commentary and most enjoyable are the conversations Merle and Soraya have, especially as they sit on a bench in Kalk Bay and the scenes of sea-gulls are screened onto a back-drop behind them.

There's some  serious high energy in the many song and dance numbers (kudos aplenty to the band and choreographer Grant van Ster) making it a sheer extravaganza!

Sterling performances abound - Rushney Ferguson shines as Abigail and has a super-mellifluous voice; Soraya is played by Carmen Maarman charmingly, the veteran Royston Stoffels plays Dennis with both gravitas and the mostly understandimg husband to Lottering's brilliantly funny Merle. And in-laws Jennifer Steyn as Claire and Nicky Rebelo as David White (married in real life too) are a joy.

I am not going to spoil the fun by telling all but Carl and his partner (delightfully and astutely played by Anzio September and Sizwesandile Mnisi respectively) also have a big announcement to make and in some subtle and some not so subtle ways their interactions and the way the family deals with  them become part of the bigger picture of our communities and our country. It's all good - and all it all goes to show that staying here and being grateful may sound cheesy but that's what makes life in this country all the more worthwhile.

A  huge thumbs up to Lottering and director Lara Foot for a very skilfully constructed show and to the team  for putting on such a magnificent evocation.

Aunty Merle - It's a Girl is on at the Baxter until February 2. Bookings at Webtickets.

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