Twenty Questions with theatrical all-rounder Ian von Memerty, who is back at Durban’s Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until March 5 with his hit show, Keyboard Killers. Singer-pianist and dancer Von Memerty takes eight of the greats – Stevie Wonder, Noel Coward, John Legend, Irving Berlin, Freddie Mercury, Fats Waller, Cole Porter and Billy Joel – and shares his love for these iconic acts. He is accompanied by bassist Andrew Warneke and percussionist Bronwen Clacherty. Tickets are priced from R130 to R150, and booking is at Computicket outlets.
ALSO NOTE… Ian von Memerty will perform A Handful of Highlights at 7pm on Monday, March 6, at St Agnes Auditorium, 53 Abelia Road, Kloof. Admissi0n is R120. It is in support of the Youth Education Support Trust. Booking is at Computicket outlets.
HOW WELL DID ‘KEYBOARD KILLERS’ DO IN DURBAN WHEN LAST IT WAS HERE? ALSO, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO FOLKS TO ENCOURAGE THEM TO SEE IT?
The show sold out last November – and I think the reason is that the material is simply astounding. From Freddie Mercury to Fats Waller, Billy Joel to Irving Berlin… I had the privilege of working on some of the most creative and evergreen material imaginable.
HAVE THERE BEEN ANY TWEAKS OR CHANGES IN THE SHOW SINCE IT WAS LAST HERE?
Because people couldn’t get in – no! I am doing the same show, with one or two updated jokes. Also, I have the same two fantastic musicians with me.
WHERE HAS THE SHOW TOURED SINCE IT WAS IN DURBAN? AND HOW MANY SHOWS AND CITIES HAVE YOU VISITED TO DATE WITH THE SHOW?
We first did the show in Durban last November. Before that it had played Cape Town, East London, Port Elizabeth and Joburg.
HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THE ARTISTS TO WHOM YOU PAY TRIBUTE IN THIS SHOW? ALSO… IF YOU COULD HAVE ADDED TWO MORE TO THE TRIBUTE WHO WOULD YOU HAVE CHOSEN?
The list of people who can do these four things is very short – play the piano, compose the music, write the lyrics, be a star. People who you think should be on the list are often missing one thing.
Elton John and Barry Manilow do not write their own lyrics. Liberace and Nat King Cole do not write their own music. The only two people who were shortlisted and did not make it were Lionel Richie and Chris de Burgh – and I thought that they had not had the lasting impact of the Awesome Eight I chose.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST UNFORGETTABLE MOMENT ON STAGE EVER – AND WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST UNINTENTIONALLY AMUSING?
There is not one awesome moment – there are layers of memories. Undoubtedly, the greatest joy is that my wife Vivienne and I are still working successfully and happily together – and have plans aplenty.
The most amusing – you choose: falling on my face centrestage at Sun City; having my pants fall down (three times) and once having my pants split while I was kneeling facing the audience. Unfortunately. I had on a pair of underpants that only be described as “money blue’ and when my wedding tackle popped through that split I suddenly went from being a rather naive teenager character to a simian in heat!
WHERE AND WHEN WERE YOU BORN AND WHAT MARKED YOUR FIRST TASTE OF SHOWBIZ ?
I was born in Zimbabwe. The annual pantomime, in what was then Salisbury, was the highlight of my year – and gave me the theatre bug. Undoubtedly, the biggest break was meeting and then being mentored by the great Joan Brickhill.
She gave me the greatest gift a young artist can receive… “ the gift of belief”. She believed in my talent even when I didn’t, and through reinforcement, and work, taught me until I could believe in my talent as well
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN SHOWBIZ, HOW MANY AWARDS HAVE YOU WON – AND OF WHICH AWARD ARE YOU MOST PROUD?
I got my first paid job 40 years ago as a church organist for a wedding, when I was 12. I got my first paid job as pianist for Judy Page when I was 17, 35 years ago. And I have worked professionally as a performer for 34 years! This is one of the most horrifying paragraphs I have ever written! I have won 15 national awards (I think) – for performance, direction, script and production.
The most important award is Husband (26 years) and successful father. There is no award that compares with either of those
WHAT NEXT FOR YOU AFTER ‘KEYBOARD KILLERS’?
Aside from gigs all over the country – Viv and I are already rehearsing our new show, Synergy ; 1 + 1 = 3. It is a unique partnership uncovering why great creative partnerships work – Lennon and McCartney; Kander and Ebb, the Gershwin Brothers, Tevye and Golde from Fiddler on the Roof, etc.
WHAT FIVE WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOU?
Energetic. Paradoxical. Uxurious (not luxurious). Creative. Eclectic.
WHAT ARE FIVE THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF (HOWEVER TRIVIAL) THAT PEOPLE ARE UNLIKELY TO KNOW?
I was diagnosed bi-polar, type-2, five years ago. I hate shopping. I can’t cook. I love silence. I have become a political commentator (Daily Maverick).
THE MOST FAMOUS PERSON YOU HAVE MET – AND WHO WOULD YOU GIVE GOLD TO MEET?
Obviously Madiba! I’d love to meet Obama.
HOBBIES, PASTIMES AND FAVOURITE THINGS?
Walking, travelling, gardening, cuddling, my family, my home, my pets.
WHAT FIVE THINGS WOULD YOU LIST UNDER ‘VASTLY OVERRATED’?
Cocktail parties, fame, fashion, reality TV shows and sports stars.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST SURPRISING THING SOMEONE HAS SAID OF YOU?
“What a quiet chap!”
WHAT ARE YOUR FEARS AND PHOBIAS – AND WHY?
I have lived through my worst fear – losing a child. I give daily thanks that my medication keeps me stable so that I never teeter on the edge of suicide again.
WHAT TRAITS DO YOU MOST DISLIKE IN OTHERS?
Racism and religious intolerance.
WHAT IS THE WORST TROUBLE YOU HAVE EVER BEEN IN?
When I was four, I rode my tricycle from our farm to a neighbour’s farm during the harvest season – with huge trucks roaring past in clouds of dust. My parents did not kiss me goodnight that night, and my backside was very sore.
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED – AND WHO GAVE IT?
The only power you have in any situation in the world – is the choice of your reaction. And I cannot remember where I got it.
IF YOU COULD INVITE ANY FIVE PEOPLE TO DINNER WHO WOULD THEY BE – AND WHY WOULD YOU INVITE THEM?
I hate dinner parties – but if I wanted to have an interesting collision of personalities then: For wit – Oscar Wilde. To get beneath the surface – Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. Also, Bill Bryson – so I could quiz him about A Short History of Nearly Everything, and Tony Sega, because he is the green revolution. Also, Mmusi Maimane – because to have our future president at the table would be a real coup.
THE BEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER HAD? AND THE WORST?
The best: “Your show made me believe in love again”. The worst: “Shame – were you sick?”
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
No-one knows. There are multiple theories and beliefs. Just do right by others, find your truth, and keep moving forward, I say.