The National Rob van Vuuren Festival

Yeah.  So Rob van Vuuren, or Twakkie* as many of you Souf Afrikans will know him, is pretty much running festival.  Well that’s the way it seems.  It feels like every single show either stars him, or is directed or produced by him.  Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since the man is a fukken legend.  I’ve succumbed to the hype, and seen a few “Rob van Vuuren’s” myself.  And as tempted as I am to dismiss him as an arrogant toss, he’s actually a machine.  His body, his face, are like putty.  He just moulds himself into whatever character he’s playing.  I think I have a little crush.  He must be buggered.  I cannot imagine how he’s doing it.  But dammit, he’s definitely got the festinos talking…



But I’m getting ahead of myself. 


I’ve seen 10 shows so far.  And I’ve got another 4 to go.  And I’m feeling faintly guilty that I didn’t squeeze one more in yesterday afternoon.  But Fest Fatigue is setting in, and I’m getting a bit jaded about stuff.  I’m starting to get that:


“Ja, dudes, it was, like, lank powerful, but you know, the motif of the caged bird was just to passé hey.  Like, there are so many other ways you could explore the zeitgeist of our subconscious denial of self, with out alienating the audience and their experience, man.  Sjoe.”


So it’s time to stop booking stuff and just enjoy what’s left.


In short, after the Dando/Kitchen/Max Normal/Ray Phiri thing and then Romeo and Juliet, I saw:


Raiders: The Daily Lama 

No Festival experience is complete without a visit to the latest Nick/Luke Ellenbogen romp.  Hilarious audience participation comedy, this year’s ridiculousness was about one man’s voyage to the Himalayas to save a vulture.  Or something. Plot is irrelevant..  Audience members are given roles and costumes and cues to come in on.  The father and son duo of Nick and Luke ham it up.  No one is safe from Nick’s roaring stage voice, hurling insults and suggestions and commentary.  The obligatory corpsing.  It’s really, really funny, in a really, really silly way. Always worth the price of the ticket.


Brother Number

One staring “RvV” and James Cairns.  A physical theatre piece about The Department of Home Affairs.  Odd. But beautifully characterised.  With some seriously funny moments and an outrageously good use of set and lighting.  Typical to a lot of small festival shows, the boys played a range of characters; each one conceptualised and delivered with beautiful attention to detail.  I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be a comedy or not.  But I laughed, and was strangely moved.  


Electric Juju

A one man play starring…um…yep…RvV.  He blew me away. Completely.  Again, a fantasy, physical theatre piece with an utterly minimal set and Rob playing about 7 characters, it was whimsical and tender and gorgeously acted.  Some pieces were a bit rushed and jumped, but each character had not only a individual voice and tone, but a physicality that was mesmerising to watch – and Rob’s ability to jump between them to weave the story….flip.   I could almost smell the market and taste the salt on the ocean air.



A story about love.  Set in a bombed out basement club in Poland in the second world war.  Also lovely and sweet, with moments of beautifully executed timing and stage craft, the play was a gentle look at the power of love in the midst of disaster and horror.  I much preferred the male lead, James Cunningham, who was excellent (Keren Tahor just felt like she was trying a little too hard).  And I wasn’t particularly satisfied with the end.  But I suspect that had a lot to do with the play being my fourth of the day!  Amazing use of set though (apparently they won an award).


Rob van Vuuren is Ron van Wuren

An hour of stand up from the man himself.  Watching this after Electric Juju clinched the crush for me.  He’s funny.  Very funny.  In a self-deprecating, physical, sweet (tales of sharing a tent with his granny and his mom) way.  Well ok, the pavlovian arsehole stories weren’t that sweet, and more self-defecating!  The show was a kinda review of his acting life, with little vignettes from his farm based childhood and stories of how he and Louw Venter (Corne) lived in a bakkie for a year, touring the Most Amazing Show.  The story about how they accidentally burst in on a funeral, thinking it was the corporate gig they’d been hired to work, ending in Corne licking the priest’s bald spot, had me knyping for fear of wetting me knickers.  He’s a funny, talented boy.



One of the few international acts (but, daaahling, of course in collaboration with South African folk), this dance piece was cool, but not mind blowing.  Divided into two parts, the first bit was a multimedia piece which, while technically excellent and with an astounding stage and light show, was a bit soulless. The second piece was inspired by Africa….and just felt like a cliché of everything African dance is supposed to be.  A good performance, but in the context of the wild, passionate stuff of Romeo and Juliet, I was a bit underwhelmed.


The Insatiables

SA acting legends, Tim Plewman and Johnathan Rands in a play about greed, friendship, corruption and ethics.  Brilliantly acted.  A great script.  But a bit heavy handed with the “morality is grey and a slippery slope” message and sadly let down by the woman playing the young psychologist who offers the foil to the stories told by the two leads.   I like seeing stuff that really plays with the boundaries of theatre and performance art, but it’s really nice just to see a good proscenium arch play well acted by two well known guys, who know what they’re doing and really deliver every line cue perfect.  Thoroughly enjoyed it.



Another “stand up” comedy show (directed by….da daaaaaa….you guessed it, Rob van flippin’ Vuuren).  I use the inverted commas, because that’s what it was billed as, but it felt more like a scripted one man show.  Mark Elderkin is a Swazi national and spends the hour telling pretty damn funny stories about his life growing up in the country of Richard E. Grant.  His characterisations of the Swazi people, white and black, are hilarious.  And his timing great.  His story about being held up by incompetent robbers, while his mum prays and his step father is frightfully British, is seriously silly.  And his comment that most Capetonians want to smoke him made me laugh, because I’d assumed the show would be about Swaziland’s best export myself.  Nice to be able to laugh out loud.


So it’s Friday morning, and I’m almost done.  It’s been fab, fab, fab.  I love this crazy town and this crazy time.  It’s made me feel human again.  Just four more shows to see and then I head back to home, to the delicious LB and my own little mouse house.  All filled up with the magic of the beautiful lie.


*Of Corné and Twakkie fame, and their stuff in the Most Amazing Show.  Guy. 

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8 thoughts on “The National Rob van Vuuren Festival

  1. kyknoord says:

    The exterminator called while you were out. He says to tell you the mouse infestation is sorted.

  2. Dolce says:

    @ Kyk > Dude? What have you done? What the hell am I going to feed Grymcor now?

  3. nursemyra says:

    is this festival on every year? maybe I should start planning 2009´s holiday now…..

  4. Seraphine says:

    I love audience participation
    as long as it doesn’t include me.

  5. daisyfae says:

    Hmmm…. methinks this could be a festive festival!

  6. Parenthesis says:

    Odd how comedy is not the first thought to cross my mind when I read “Swazi” either.
    Great minds, eh? 🙂

  7. Dolce says:

    @ Nurse M > Every year. Like clockwork. And I think you should. Dear god. Could you imagine the girls doing intrepretive corset performance art on the streets of Grahamstown. The poor town would grin to a screetching halt!

    @ Seraphine > Hey, welcome to the Good Lief. And my deep dark secret? I luuuurve audience participation, especially if it includes me. *hangs head in exhibitionist shame*

    @ Dais > it ’tis indeed. Most festive. And I didn’t even get to do half the stuff I wanted to do. Like the slam, open mike poetry nights. Which half crack me up, half freak me out. Or the tour of all the fantastic art on exhibition. Or the Jazz fest that runs concurrently. Or or or…..*sigh* Next year.

    @ Ms P > *snort*…or is that *cough* *inhaaaaaaaale* *cough* Dude.

  8. Venter Bookmarks… user has just tagged your post as venter!…

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