Alistair Izobell

Award-winning stage performer and producer, Alistair Izobell is back at the Baxter with Kaapse Stoep Stories, a collection of tales bound together by his musical journey which started as a young boy hawking the Cape Argus on the stage in District Six

Theresa Smith

SEASONED professional with a 29-year career on stage, Alistair Izobell is the last person you would think to hear describe himself as afraid of performing.

But he freely admits it has been many years now that he has been afraid of writing original material “because of this sense of defeat”.

“Die mense was ‘ie bang om te sê ‘ons support ‘ie local nie’,” (People were not afraid to say, ‘we do not support local’) said Izobell in an interview at the Baxter Theatre.

About a year ago, though, he decided to ignore that defeatist attitude and he started playing the piano again, and more importantly, writing again. And it has turned out to be a rewarding experience, “because it’s satisfying my sense of creativity”.

He challenged the musicians he always works with that if they came up with an original song, he would write an original two-hour show – which they did the very next day. And that is how Kaapse Stoep Stories started.

First he worked on Just Me, Net So, “which was talking about my experience, and I’m humbled by the fact that I’ve had 29 years of incredible experiences.

“These were anecdotes of the wonderful moments in my career and how those moments have moulded my persona,” he described Just Me, Net So.

The 38-year-old Capetonian believes there is a growing sense of acceptance of originality among the local audience, especially when compared to ten years ago. He credits this in no short measure to audiences becoming fed up with being treated as the dumping ground for international acts who are past their sell-by date.

The concept of ownership of the stories which are relatable also helps. Plus, “South Africans are a very loyal following, Capetonians particularly.”

Izobell describes his more recent productions as the “kind of opportunity where people don’t want to miss out on the nostalgia”.

“That’s what’s great about the kind of industry I’m in; one can always tap into people’s nostalgia and their memories.

“Young artists don’t realise the responsibility that goes along with being an artist or an entertainer because you’re dealing with people’s emotions. You’re dealing with people’s feelings, their ideas, aspirations and shortcomings and everything that encompasses how they perceive themselves.

“So it’s a huge responsibility. With Music alla Kaap and all the other projects, it’s exciting for me because I know people walk away not only satisfied, but their existence feels validated.”

Now he is back on the Baxter stage with his one-man show Kaapse Stoep Stories. While he wrote and directed the show himself, and is the only performer, he is joined on stage by guitarist Jason de Laney.

While it is a more talk-heavy than singing show, he does perform four original tracks, but a big theme is that it is supposed to be funny.

“I think the one thing South Africans have learned, especially the daring comedic acts, is that people don’t want to be laughed at, they want to be laughed with.

“Particularly as a coloured person, I don’t want to make jokes that make my people seem like a bunch of idiots. It must be about the idiosyncrasies and the very charming way we interpret things.

“There’s nothing worse than spending money to watch someone and you are the one being belittled as the audience.”

With Kaapse Stoep Stories he has approached the narrative thread as if he is taking the audience on a storytelling adventure about the “stoep stories” which are always being recounted among neighbours, from old people’s advice to hand-me-downs.

There is also a big emphasis on the types of relationships which have shaped him over the years.

His main focus, though, is that he has to take people along on the journey: “That’s what a lot of people have come (along) to feel; ‘make me feel as passionate about your work as you do. Let me walk away feeling validated and really great that I was part and parcel of the success of your story.’”

Kaapse Stoep Stories is on at the Golden Arrow Studio at the Baxter Theatre from June 17 to July 5 at 8.15pm, Tuesdays to Saturdays. Tickets: R140 from Computicket or contact 021 680 3962 for block bookings.