When Barbie does Bosman

Barbie Meyer in a scene from Marico Moon, her sixth solo show saluting the writing of Herman Charles Bosman. The final Durban performance is at 2pm tomorrow (Sunday, August 11) at the Rhumbelow Theatre at Tina’s Hotel in Beryldene Road, Kloof. Book at Computicket.

Stage: Marico Moon – Rhumbelow Theatre, Tina’s Hotel, Beryldene Road, Kloof

SO, WHAT does a blonde, English-speaking woman, the wife of an artist from Uvongo, have in common with the classic, simple-living but wise Oom Schalk Lourens character created by South African short-story master, Herman Charles Bosman?

Not much, one would think, but in her unlikely portrayal of the ageing, khaki-clad Oom Schalk – all loud snorts, grunts, nods, and eyes peering from behind a pipe, a tipped hat or a glass of mampoer – the ebullient Barbie Meyer does a fine job.

She offers an engaging outpouring of the magic of Bosman’s vivid stories of the early-20th-century, rural Afrikaner; timeless bushveld tales about humanity that are often laced with irony and a bittersweet sting.

The curious thing about Bosman’s writing is that while his tales dealt with an Afrikaans culture that was passing, all stories were written in English, with occasional injections of Afrikaans words or phrases.

Meyer, who performs at arts festivals and small venues countrywide, has crafted Marico Moon as her sixth show saluting the classic short stories of a wordsmith who lived from 1905 to 1951, and is globally noted for his poetry, spot-on observations and satirical wit.

Marico Moon has Meyer, directed by her artist husband Marke Meyer, flitting between costumes and characters while on stage, an intimate space featuring a rocking chair and assorted wooden boxes which, when rearranged, become steps, chairs and, at one stage, a donkey cart.

Barbie Meyer in Marico Moon.

With assorted voices, expressions, well-considered pauses, mime, carefully contrived mannerisms, and occasionally some pre-recorded narration, Meyer acts out a selection of stories that include the opening tale of a squeeze or two of juba-berry juice into a coffee cup making women want to love even the ugliest of platteland blokes.

We also hear of the effects of weed smoking, leading to amusing scenarios where people fear everything or seem to know and engage with every stranger they come across; and of the poor man who always thought of a particular woman when he stared at a particular star, but whose love and sweet sentiments were not reciprocated.

Also here is the engaging tale of a dusty horse ride through the bushveld that leads to a “ghost woman” under a veld thorn tree, an alluring and attractive person with sinister intentions.

We also get small dollops of Bosman’s poetry in a show that moves at a good pace and makes for very pleasant entertainment.

Meyer does a great job holding one’s attention. In her own words, she specifically doesn’t try to hide the fact that she is a woman, offering what she calls “a fresh and contemporary take on Herman Charles Bosman’s work”.

She has added in an interview: “My gestures, accents and conversation, I hope, are believable and downright manly – thanks to my tenacious director.”

Marico Moon is not the usual fare one finds on the Rhumbelow theatre circuit, but is a welcome breath of fresh air. Kudos to the theatre group’s entertainment co-ordinator, Roland Stansell, for catering for this niche market.

The show has only one more performance in Durban – at 2pm tomorrow (Sunday, August 11). Tickets cost R150 each and booking is at Computicket or by phoning 082 499 8636.

Barbie Meyer as Oom Schalk Lourens in Marico Moon.

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