J.Bobs LIVE – A Game Show Double Bill

Text: Xolani Tembu

Photographs: Supplied

Should your Mondays and Tuesdays be marked by associations to repeated turns and bends on rallying gravel roads through foreign owned farms and a series of mountain passes in the Klein Karoo in a Chevrolet Spark, perhaps making your way down to Maboneng’s quaint POPArt Theatre for Kiri Pink Nob’s “J. Bobs Live: A Game Show Double-Bill” might offer you an inebriant-induced kind of tranquility you so need to mellow down.

Having toured around the country over the past while, J. Bobs Live: A Game Show Double-Bill returns to the POPArt Theatre monthly for your entertainment. In true Tshabalala style, the 2 man show, a remake of its original, is in essence two game shows within a show aptly titled “Location-Lekeyshini-Lokasie” and “Off The Record”. As the characters begin to interact outlandishly with the floored audience and launch into wonderful absurdity, one understands why the titles. The two men waltz onto the stage construction worker-style to an unassuming audience and dexterously demand a welcome of legendary proportions. It is here that the audience realizes that it is in for one long showcase and it is a tad too late for a refund. The stunned audience naturally takes a while to get into the scheme of things but hits the ground running nevertheless. J. Bobs Live: A Game Show Double-Bill is a truly fascinating display that parts lovers, friends and unknowns as it divides the audience into two competing teams, making way for new friendships and relations. Each team sees a pre-elected captain join the two characters on stage to represent their respective teams. Talks of ‘After-Show is After-Show if we lose’ as respective captains make their way onto the stage fills the room – all friendly banter really. Team spirit in true South African style skyrockets.

The audience is encouraged to maintain the powered state of its cell phones but isn’t guaranteed if the battery or its data bundles won’t be depleted by the end of the show. Each team regularly holds COSATU-type caucuses for teambuilding and other purposes during the show while trying to accumulate as many points as possible. The show closes with a teeth clenching all or nothing rivalry that sees the teams cling heavily onto new friends, their garments and literally everything around for team and personal pride – bringing to mind the famed Hamba Nathi Mkhululi Wethu war cry.

This showcase is unlike any other in the past decade of the Performing Arts. The brainchild of esteemed and gifted Writer and Director in Jefferson Tshabalala a.k.a J.Bobs, J. Bobs Live: A Game Show Double-Bill is a much needed and subsequently well-deserved laugh as one is encouraged to lose their marbles and just be, all for a good time, new twitter handles and cellphone numbers at the end of the evening – if you’re single that is. One imagines Tshabalala sat in front of a blank telly screen one day as he launched into this beautiful craziness and wondered, “what if this blank television was a responsive audience?”

Bobs Live: A Game Show Double-Bill is on monthly at the POPArt Theatre every first Monday and Tuesday at 8pm and tickets are available at a lowly R80 online and R100 at the door. Ensure you don’t miss this tremendous stress relieving showcase. Anyone can become an actor really.

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Review – The Suitcase

starring-siyabonga-thwala-and-masasa-mbangeni-image-taken-by-iris-dawn-parker-02.jpg

Text: Xolani Tembu

Photographs: Iris Parker

It is the 1950s, a docile, recently married young couple from rural Natal, evocative of Gaz’lam’s Khethiwe and Sifiso, has resolved to pack the little they own and leave their agonizingly unbearable families for greener pastures. Timi Ngobese (Siyabonga Thwala) had heard of a place called Umkhumbane that was apparently overrun with mushrooms of rooms to rent. As he and his buoyant young bride Namhla Ngobese (Masasa Mbangeni) journeyed to the big city aboard a South African Railway Services locomotive, they arrive to a flurry of human bodies and mystifying stench that is characteristic of cities. Carrying an antique traveler’s suitcase and roll of sponge mattress remnant of enterprising township-street-pounding Zimbabwean and Mozambican merchants, the Ngobeses rest as they attempt to figure out how they would get to Umkhumbane. While they wait, enters Mlotshwa (Desmond Dube), a former rural Natal cum streetwise Umkhumbane denizen who after a short exchange with the Ngobeses, offers them a room in his yard. What follows is a rollercoaster of a life half lived burdened by the pressures of city life and shattered dreams. A true reminder that life is indeed what happens while we make plans.

Adapted from Es’kia Mphahlele’s 1954 short story, The Suitcase features an all-star cast in Siyabonga Thwala, Masasa Mbangeni, Desmond Dube and John Lata to name a few. Under the incredible direction of veteran actor and director James Ngcobo, the cast moves in mesmerizing fashion as it delivers the narrative. A combination of well-timed transitions and apposite supporting music through the voices of Gugu Shezi, Ndoh Dlamini and Nokukhanya Dlamini backed by well-known left handed guitarist Bheki Khoza, effortlessly transported the agreeable audience back to the 1950s when pinstriped suits, two-toned shoes and a selection of Dobbs and Stetson hats were the order of the day. The Suitcase is an indispensable reminder of the pureness of black love; simple, uncluttered and unadulterated. It is also a reminder of how precarious such love can be when left to its own devices.

While a much welcomed breakage of the fourth wall by the two narrators in Desmond Dube and John Lata takes place every so often, it also took away the momentum of the show, a rather rude reminder of the days when SABC channels would go on ad breaks in the middle of a feature film. Some would liken this feeling to an almost sneeze; truly, nothing could be more frustrating. The show could have certainly done well without the narration. With its talented cast, remarkable direction and well thought out set and lighting, it stands well on its own and carries the story with very little need for elucidation.

Congratulations must however, go out to the team, particularly Ngcobo for his refusal to render this show prosaic and pedestrian since its inception in 2006. Returning to The Market Theatre for a 6 week season, it would truly be unpatriotic to miss it after its critically acclaimed sold out season in the United Kingdom. Tickets are available from The Market Theatre Box Office at R90.00 for Tuesdays- Thursdays, R150.00 for Fridays-Saturdays and R130.00 for Sundays. For this season, the curtain will drop on the 26 November 2017.

Twitter: @skrufu