Speaking just one of South Africa’s 11 official languages comes back to bite me at the most unexpected times. Like when I’m chuckling away as wild-haired comedian Marc Lottering builds up a joke, weaving a story line with words, actions and facial expressions all perfectly meshed to draw us into his wacky world.
I’m laughing all the way until wham! He hits us with the punch line in Afrikaans.
The audience around me is doubling up in seizures and I’m sitting there wailing. What did he just say? I tug on the sleeve of someone to translate for me, but by the time they can speak for laughing Lottering is already painting his next comic scenario.
And I’m chuckling again as he weaves another tale, desperately hoping he’ll complete this one in English. Often he does, and maybe it’s just my imagination that the laughter always seems louder for the jokes I don’t understand. Afterwards my friends insist it wouldn’t have translated anyway because the humour is all in the guttural tone and inflection that just don’t switch from one language to another.
Naughty Forty at the Market Theatre is a one-man show written when Lottering suddenly realised half his life was already behind him. It’s a scary thought, and he merrily points out how he’s ditching friends who are oxygen thieves. “Old people have no time to waste on anyone who doesn’t add value to their remaining years”, he says.
There’s no growing old gracefully here, and thank goodness for that. He’s still his soft-spoken self until he mimics the squawking Cape Flats accents of his childhood. He pokes fun at double chins, middle aged paunch, and parents who struggle to reason with their sullen kids when they’d really rather whack them. He started going to gym, and spins some wonderful yarns of tacking the weights as the veins pop on his forehead.
It’s funny even if you’re a linguistic laggard, but if you’re fluent in both you’ll be giggling from start to finish. You could actually be deaf and still find one of his sketches hilarious, when he demonstrates the difference between the dancing style of a 20-year-old and the dancing non-style of 40-year-olds. It’s funny because its bitingly true.
He does a lovely impression of a pouting, predatory single lady flirting with married men, and quickly points out couples in the audience who are no longer laughing because it’s too guiltily familiar.
Naughty Forty is back for a fresh run in Johannesburg only a few weeks after its last short sell-out season. There was apparently a waiting list of 800 names for those shows, but even with that pent-up demand it may be a challenge to fill the large main theatre at the Market.
So do the old man a favour and get your bum on a seat, to laugh at what you already are, or to quake at what you will become once you hit your naughty forties.
Naughty Forty runs at the Market Theatre until Saturday September 19th.
Review by Lesley Stones