Stage: Family Therapy – Seabrooke’s Theatre, Durban High School
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
DURBAN’S loved and most offbeat and seasoned entertainment duo, the award-winning husband and wife team of Aaron McIlroy and Lisa Bobbert, continues to pour out the madness, music and mirth with Family Therapy, one of their most entertaining shows in recent times.
The production, playfully directed and choreographed by Daisy Spencer, was a hot ticket when it premiered at the Rhumbelow Theatre in Kloof at the end of 2019 and went on to be a hit, online, at the virtual National Arts Festival last year.
Now, tightened up to run a little over an hour without an interval, it is being staged Wednesdays to Saturdays until April 4 at the cosy Seabrooke’s Theatre at DHS, where Covid-19 protocols are in place.
If you’re seeking an escape from the many woes we are enduring in this country right now, this show is just the ticket for a dose of good cheer, serving a smile-a-minute load of nonsense with a mix of colourful characters and screwball situations, and a diverse range of songs.
The stage is divided into a lounge with an easel display board, and a small garden area, and the fun starts with the arrival of Bobbert as the whining and domineering Charmaine, in curls and sequinned, fringed frock. She sings the classic Love Story and all the while, McIlroy, as nervous and hen-pecked husband Nigel, battles to make an entrance while Charmaine constantly shoos him off stage.
When McIlroy returns after the song, wearing lederhosen, Charmaine explains that she and (a reluctant) Nigel have turned to motivational speaking, family being the topic of discussion and the audience being the people facing the lectures by the duo and ‘special guests’.
In the original production of the show, it was at this point that male audience members were pulled on stage for a fun routine, but with Covid-19 restrictions that sequence has now been tweaked to instead focus on audience participation from afar.
It leads to the two stars offering a choreographed rendition of Queen’s Under Pressure before they launch into a series of sketches, each signposted with a change of topic on the display board, which introduce new characters.
First up is Bobbert as Charmaine and Nigel’s pig-tailed, cellphone-mad, teen daughter Cher, who tells a tale of her father’s embarrassing Whatsapp posts and plots a way to manipulate his bank account. The sketch originally ended on a somewhat poignant note and was capped with McIlroy’s fine rendition, to backing tracks, of Billy Joel’s Vienna. Sadly, that has now been ditched with the show having been shortened to festival length.
We then get to meet guitar-carrying Gary, the blond, laidback, surfer-dude from the Bluff, who has been invited to deliver a talk on ‘Blended Family’. He chats about everything – from hungry lions and TV’s Postman Pat, to his Indian girlfriend and a stepfather who doesn’t like him – then ends with a lyrically reworked rendition of a golden-oldie pop hit that lends itself beautifully to Gary’s story.
An outrageous sketch from the original production, which had Aaron and Lisa literally joined at the hip, as Siamese twin brothers discussing sibling rivalry, has been ditched in this new version which, instead, goes straight into a highlight of the evening – McIlroy’s spot-on, Indian smooth-talker, VJ.
While on the topic of ‘Boundaries’, VJ, who now bemoans the fact that his shimmery shirt looks tighter after months of lockdown inactivity, draws howls of laughter with a convoluted, wandering discussion about a man chopping up his boat. It ends with a truly excellent, intentionally camp delivery of Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat, from the musical Guys and Dolls.
Family Therapy ends on a more subtle, more sincere but still comic, note, with Lisa and Aaron playing older married characters, she rather conservative and he somewhat mischievous. They reflect on their life, times and family, closing the show well with a fine rendition of That’s Life.
Family Therapy has a suggested age recommendation of 10 years-plus. Evening performances are at 7.30pm (Wednesdays to Saturdays), with 3pm matinees today (Sunday, March 21) and on March 27 and 28, and April 3 and 4. Tickets cost R180 (R160 for students and pensioners). Booking is at WebTickets.