I need to find a replacement for my GBFF as he’s heading over-the-water for the foreseeable future. No, not a friendship stand-in, as modern technology has that sorted. I need someone who will accompany me to all future Nataniël shows because Nataniël shows are to Joe Public what Joburg is to a Capetonian – you either love it or absolutely hate it. I remember watching After Animals last year in awe while the braaimaster-looking oke in front of me laughed mockingly at Nataniël in a dress. So if men in heels and gowns are not your thing, please exeunt stage left.
MANNEQUIN tells the story of a tailor and a group of ‘misfits’ who escape to a small town in the countryside in pursuit of their freedom of expression, as told to the author and relayed in that very unique, dry Nataniël way through original songs, interesting covers of well-known songs, monologues in English and Afrikaans and a raw short film that addresses being ‘different’. You’ll hear about ivy-covered houses with secrets and strangely-named companions. The monologues also touch on sexuality, prejudice and colonialism without mentioning those topics explicitly while being light-hearted at the same time, a feat to be applauded in our overwrought times. It forces an audience to really think rather than get defensive.
There’s a reason Nataniël and the team he’s assembled over the years keep winning awards – pure artistry that isn’t beholden and keeps evolving. This show experimented with more blues, jazz and soul with an acoustic number thrown in too and it was all held together tightly once more by the great band – Charl Du Plessis, Juan Oosthuizen, Werner Spies and Hugo Radyn. The backing vocalists in Nicolaas Swart and Dihan Slabbert are unobtrusive but quite welcome and I would’ve liked to hear them featured on a few more songs. The striking costumes by Floris Louw could have their own show actually, from a huge, colourful quilt and the breath-taking creation Nataniël wore during the rendition of ‘Cry To Me’ to the quickest quick-changes I’ve ever seen in my life – literally, applause and blackout of five seconds into lights up on a new look.
Admittedly, as much as I enjoyed and finger-snapped throughout the show, I do feel that MANNEQUIN was short of a few winks and nudges. Another friend who was there felt it was all too ‘affected’. However, given differing opinions, I don’t think this is a ‘lesser’ show – expect the same great extravaganza of storytelling and a visual feast as only Nataniël can give!
MANNEQUIN runs until 25 September 2016 at Theatre of Marcellus at Emperor’s Palace. Shows are Wednesdays to Saturdays at 20:00 with a Sunday matinee 15:00. Tickets range from Full Price R180, Show and Meal R360 and Nataniël Fans Special R153 and are all available at Computicket.