Mark Banks is back with a brand new solo show
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