David Muller

Oom Schalk from the Heart

Director: Celia Musikanth

Cast: David Muller

Venue: Kalk Bay Theatre

Until: April 6

Rating: ****


It is easy to forget that the artless raconteur in rumpled clothes sharing tales from the Groot Marico is in fact an actor impersonating Schalk Lourens, Herman Charles Bosman’s warm-hearted and garrulous yokel.

That is due to the combination of David Muller’s (pictured) convincing portrayal and Celia Musikanth’s deft direction.

The success of Muller’s performance is attributable to the consistency of his accent and characterisation, as well as his ability to engage his audience with unwavering eye-contact.

He gives the impression of enjoying the narration as much as those listening to it, and his artistic stamina is not a whit diminished at the end of the show.

Musikanth has applied her mind to the necessity for sustaining interest in what amounts to a lengthy monologue with minimal staging. No matter how engaging the performer’s personality, or how amusing the script, few actors can simply stand and deliver without any concessions to variety.

A rustic bench, an enamel mug, and a pipe represent all the props at Muller’s disposal, and his only change of costume is the doffing and donning of a battered hat. With such a paucity of physical means to ring the changes, body-language and facial repertoire become essential tools to attach spectators.

Muller, under Musikanth’s direction, succeeds in creating a fully rounded persona whose avuncular warmth and narrative skill ensure he does not outstay his welcome.

The mainspring of variety in this show is the range of moods captured in Lourens’s stories: by turns whimsical (Veld Maiden), touching (In the Withaak’s Shade), and downright hilarious (A Bekkersdal Marathon and Willem Prinsloo’s Peach Brandy), they reflect the rich diversity of experience in Oom Schalk’s world.

The sole cause for complaint about this captivating one-hander is that only five tales are featured; Muller’s final exit leaves one craving more of this entertainment, which is as addictive as Prinsloo’s peach brandy.