Mark Banks is back with a brand new solo show

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODTHEATRE - ROBYN CO­HEN

MARK Banks has been fo­cus­ing on stand-up com­edy show­cases for the past few years, but now he is back with a new show, Banksrupt!, at the Bax­ter from July 31 to Au­gust 10.

I ask what’s brought him back into the solo fold. “I am get­ting very tired of com­edy line-ups – and I think the pub­lic are too! I wanted to get back to the ‘old’ Mark Banks with char­ac­ters and sketches and my own show! There are so many co­me­di­ans at the mo­ment... so I wanted to go some­where dif­fer­ent with com­edy. I tried Tokai For­est, but was ar­rested for bring­ing alien com­edy into a na­ture com­edy re­serve.”

Banksrupt! has gone down well – there is not much re­gur­gi­tat­ing – with Joburg au­di­ences. Will we be get­ting the same show or will there be changes? “Ev­ery night the show is a sur­prise. You’ll have to wait and see.”

The ti­tle, Banksrupt!, refers to the fact that we’re broke – “fi­nan­cially, morally, and men­tally”.

Banks fans will know, he is not shy to put his com­edy where his mouth is. He can be bru­tal. There’s no shim­my­ing around. He says it like he sees it and if you don’t like his rant, too bad. But the scathing is of­ten lay­ered with pathos. For in­stance, in his 2005 show, Ek’s ’n Doos (aka “Ex­o­dus”), through his sketches, he made harsh ob­ser­va­tions about ex­pats who had skedad­dled out of the Rain­bow Na­tion. It was very funny – and poignant – and re­mains one of his most po­tent shows. It was scathing and hi­lar­i­ous, but I wanted to cry at some of the por­traits he con­jured up of the peo­ple who have left our shores and the peo­ple left be­hind.

John Vlismas reck­ons that Banks is some­thing of an an­ar­chist who puts “com­edy and dis­com­fort right next to each other”. Banksrupt! is be­ing pro­duced by Whacked Man­age­ment, Vlismas’s com­pany.

“John Vlismas knows noth­ing! I’m much fun­nier!” But Banks de­murs and adds: “Vlismas re­ally has the pulse of South African com­edy un­der his pierced fin­ger­tips – so I lis­ten.”

● Banksrupt! is at the Bax­ter from July 31 un­til Au­gust 10, Wed-Sat at 8.30pm. Tick­ets are R100 at Com­puticket, at 0861 915 8000.

WHAT does home mean to you? Joburg ac­tors Atandwa Kani and Nat Ram­ab­u­lana ex­plore the mean­ing of home in con­tem­po­rary so­ci­ety in the play Hayani (“home” in Venda) which is at the Bax­ter from Au­gust 8-31. It is di­rected by War­ren Nebe and is part of Drama for Life, a com­mu­nity pro­gramme at Wits which in­cludes de­vel­op­ment of orig­i­nal theatre.

Hayani has been de­vel­oped from im­ages and rec­ol­lec­tions in Kani’s and Ram­ab­u­lana’s lives. “They play each other and a range of char­ac­ters that move into their lives, but it’s not a lin­ear nar­ra­tive. It shifts,” ex­plains Nebe. “You are who you are be­cause of oth­ers. You travel in the foot­steps of fa­thers and mothers.” Kani is the son of ac­tor/writer/di­rec­tor John Kani.

When Ram­ab­u­lana was born, his Venda-born fa­ther was “old enough to be his grand­fa­ther”, says Nebe. “And his mother was very young.” Ram­ab­u­lana’s drama univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion was paid for by his fa­ther’s em­ployer of 30 years. And then you have Kani whose fa­mous fa­ther was part of an­other world.

“Hayani is about what it means to be­come an adult in 2013,” says Nebe. “We’ve tried to cre­ate a weave of sto­ries that a di­verse South African au­di­ence can re­late to. It doesn’t mat­ter who you are; you can re­late to it.” It is pri­mar­ily in English, but some Xhosa and Venda is used. Matthew Mac­Far­lane is on stage and uses live mu­sic which is “gen­tle and evoca­tive”.

“Yes, there is hu­mour. It is about invit­ing the au­di­ence to con­sider its own sto­ries and to re­flect on the no­tion of what home re­ally means in South Africa, and that home is far more com­plex that I think politi­cians want us to be­lieve.”

Hayani has been on the brew since 2009 and been staged at fes­ti­vals. Af­ter the Bax­ter run, it will go to the Mar­ket Theatre.

“We didn’t want to push it into the main­stream un­til it was ready,” says Nebe.

Drama for Life has been es­tab­lish­ing its reper­toire slowly. The theatre lab com­po­nent of Drama for Life has a core com­pany of Nebe, Kani, Ram­ab­u­lana and Mac­Far­lane. Nebe used to head the drama depart­ment at Wits, and Kani and Ram­ab­u­lana were his stu­dents. They re­alised they were on the same page and be­gan to work to­gether.

Hayani was on at the Schools Fes­ti­val, which takes place just af­ter the National Arts Fes­ti­val. The teen au­di­ences were in­cred­i­bly re­spon­sive to Hayani, says Nebe who is thrilled to be stag­ing the play in the Mother City. “I don’t think we are hav­ing enough con­ver­sa­tions across cities. We need to see each other’s work – and hear each oth­ers’ sto­ries.”

● Shows start at 7pm. Tick­ets are R120 and R100 for the Bax­ter Mon­day spe­cial which in­cludes meal and theatre ticket. There is a two-for-the-price-of-one spe­cial for the Tues­day per­for­mances on Au­gust 13 and 20. Book at Com­puticket at 0861 915 8000.



IN­SPI­RA­TION: Atandwa Kani and Nat Ram­ab­u­lana tell their sto­ries in

FOR LAUGHS: Mark Banks

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