STAGE: Rocking The Globe – Barnyard Theatre, Suncoast Casino, Durban
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
WHAT a treat to be back at Durban’s Barnyard Theatre after eight months of Covid-19 lockdown. Safety protocols are in place – mask, sanitiser, the usual drill – and there is a welcome return to good times at a venue known for putting a smile on the face of those keen to let their hair down.
Another plus is that with social distancing requiring theatres to have only 50% capacity, there are now large gaps between the venue’s wooden tables, which suits me just fine as sometimes, in the past, the venue has been packed to the point that one could hardly move.
Rocking the Globe is a streamlined, tweaked, slightly updated and retitled variation of Rocking All Over the World, a show which, produced at least twice before on the Barnyard circuit, takes patrons on a breezy flight through hits associated with different countries. It’s lightweight and laden with good cheer.
When last staged in Durban a few years ago, the showband entertainment featured Durbanites Calli Thomson (keyboards and musical direction) and Kirsty van der Linde (sax). Both perform the same duties for this revisited revival which has a mostly Durban cast, but for versatile Johannesburg singer Themba January – who was so good in the standout Barnyard shows Rhythm of the Night and Cirque Rock – and rock vocalist Raymond Ray, last seen here in ’80s vs ’90s.
In the last incarnation of Rocking the Globe, effervescent Bronwyn Evens linked songs as an air hostess with changing outfits and accents. Now, with a lot less corn and more brief casual patter, January and another strong vocalist and charmer, Kyle Matthews, share the duties (as pilots).
They, Ray and petite blonde Savanah de Beer (making her Barnyard debut after a series of shows at Durban’s Rockwood Theatre) are backed by a fine team of musicians. Besides sassy saxophonist Kirsty and Calli on the keyboards, we have Dylan van der Linde (Kirsty’s husband) on drums and Bongane Sakhile on bass.
The show’s lead guitarist is Jason Kylen, but the night we were in, the stellar Barry Thomson, of The Reals band, stood in for him and will be doing so twice more in December.
A new element to the show since it was last seen locally is that now the entire back of the stage, flanked by road signs, has video material depicting zooms into various parts of the world map, national flags and other colourful visual content.
It adds to the fun of a production that continues to keep the crowd more than satisfied. and my only real gripe is the conspicuous absence of follow spotlights which means that sometimes performers are thrown into darkness when singing.
Opening with the band performing a medley of instrumental excerpts from a wide range of hit songs, the show launches into three Roxette hits from Savanah and Raymond.
We then visit France for Savanah’s interpretation of two Edith Piaf classics. She appears in black bob wig and a short red dress and does a fair job, but the sequence is lightweight, lacking a connection with the lyrics. It might have been far more impressive performed in front of an old-fashioned stand microphone, bathed in subtle lighting, using the sort of dramatic hand gestures associated with Piaf.
Performing solo and in varying combinations, and in various colourful costumes and wigs, the cast also nods to popular songs from Greece, Ireland, Spain, Jamaica, Italy, Australia and, of course, the UK, US and SA.
Highlights include a cheerful medley of Gipsy Kings hits – complete with colourfully frilled shirts and sombreros – as well as a fun Spice Girls surprise among song choices for the salute to the UK, which includes nods to Eurythmics, George Michael, Def Leppard, Queen and Ed Sheeran.
The American section features Themba’s amusing acknowledgement of MC Hammer. It also salutes Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi and Lady Gaga (I would have preferred Shallow or something else more up to date than the stale Poker Face and Bad Romance).
Each singer has time to shine – Kyle most impressing (in bad wig) with Tom Jones’s Delilah and Themba perhaps most fun (in dreadlocks) with Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds and One Love.
Savanah sparkles with Mango Groove’s Special Star and Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams; and Ray is at his peak with AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer and Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar on Me. Dylan and Kirsty also get their moment in the spotlight with a spunky instrumental rendition of Tequila.
Rocking the Globe also features such hits as Jerusalema, Down Under, Who Can It Be Now?, In the Name of Love, Maria, Time to Say Goodbye, Star-Spangled Banner, Careless Whisper, On the Floor, Impi, I Got a Feeling and Jump.
The show runs until December 31 and has performances only at 7.30pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 2.30pm on Sundays (until further notice). In line with Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, the audience will be kept to 250 patrons.
Lend the theatre and artists support in these trying times!
Tickets cost R195 each, and at the Sunday afternoon performances, pensioners and children under 12 pay half price (telephonic bookings only).
Note that patrons are permitted to take along their own snacks or buy food (great pizzas!) at the venue. However, no beverages are permitted in your picnic baskets – all drinks must be bought at the venue’s pub.
Book by phoning The Barnyard Theatre at (031) 940 0500.