Back with vigour and venom

Ben Voss (left) and John van de Ruit in the very funny Cash Crusaders sketch from Mamba Republic, at Durban’s Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until June 4, before performances countywide. All pictures in this review are by Val Adamson.

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STAGE: Mamba Republic – Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, Durban
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
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THE imitable Durban duo of Spud author John van de Ruit and versatile Ben Voss – also known for his drag alter ego, Beauty Ramapelepele – is back with another in the team’s self-penned, venomous sketch comedy series which started with the biting Green Mamba (2002) and Black Mamba (2005).

Mamba Republic, directed with pace and a light touch by Mervyn McMurty, and lit by the award-winning Michael Broderick, is labelled as “a savagely funny look at all that is wrong, and very wrong, in the Rainbow Nation”. And that description is perfect.

Mamba fans are not likely to be disappointed with the latest slithery hiss of satire from this talented team, whose humour remains topical, flicking between fun and fierce.

Against a series of panels-on-wheels, depicting a giant picture of Nelson Mandela against a backdrop of global landmarks – ranging from Big Ben and the statue of Liberty to the Voortrekker Monument, Taj Mahal and Johannesburg’s Soccer City – the duo arrive first as lively football commentators.

They report on the FU Cup (Fuccup, for short), a game in which the ANC and the DA political parties don’t exactly play ball as they face one another on the field. It is an hilarious start to the show, and good news is that the match’s second half opens the show’s second half.

Ben Voss (left) and John van de Ruit in the soccer commentary sequence that opens Mamba Republic.

Both Van de Ruit and Voss, bursting with energy, present a colourful parade of characters and costumes. They deliver, with zeal and panache, a flow of zany humour and wit that makes use of props ranging from a pink pouffe, a bowling ball and giant, moving phallic silhouette, to a bar counter, a trolley and assorted home items.

I loved the frantic, clever sketch set in Cash Converters, where a gung-ho salesman (Voss) draws laughs with his choice of items for sale as a costumer (Van de Ruit) explains details of a romantic break-up.

Another favourite has Voss as a bored saleswoman who, while toying with her cellphone, manages to sell a million and one items to an anxious father, played very well by Van de Ruit.

Van de Ruit also excels in his jab as CNN journalist Richard Quest, interviewing a flow of South African finance ministers, all delivered with aplomb by Voss. With his rubbery face and loose limbs, he constantly steals the show.

Voss’s contestants in the Caucasian Racism Idols segment, playing a variety of male and female contestants, is a hoot; and he is also enormous fun both as a baby in a pram and as a doddery old woman battling to stay alive to win a bowls tournament.

Both men delight in a sequence nodding to the Academy Awards (with nudges and winks at Oscar Pistorius),  and other standouts are a clever sketch that turns the menu of a Rainbow Nation restaurant into strikes at all things South African, and Voss as an over-the-top “audience volunteer” receiving lessons in courting.

Delicious, too, are the sketch with Van de Ruit as a pilot with Voss as his car guard assistant, and the duo’s horserace commentary-with-a- twist, which closes the show with a bang.

My only grumble was with a segment involving Voss as Mozart, conducting a mismatched orchestra of politicians. A little disappointing and longwinded.

That said, Mamba Republic remains as sharp and incisive as any of the other Mamba strikes. It certainly provides many laughs and is the perfect excuse for a night away from the telly. See it!

Ben Voss as an eager ‘audience volunteer’ receiving lessons in courting, from John van de Ruit, in a scene from Mamba Republic.

Booking is at Computicket outlets.


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