By BRUCE DENNILL
Seriously?! / Directed by Gina Shmukler / Crystal Room, Killarney Country Club, Johannesburg
“Seriously?!” – it’s an exclamation of incredulity and frustration, mumbled (or shouted) when someone does, or says, something that seems to be illogical or, at worst, just unbelievably thick. Such vexations are common and, as writer, producer and performer Harry Sideropoulos points out at the beginning of his (almost) one-man show, everyone has an opinion on them, and one more – and from a middle-aged white man, at that – shouldn’t really matter.
Except that any opinions that are well thought out and eloquently stated is worth hearing, and particularly so when they’ve been carefully curated and are presented in a package as slick as this one.
Staged in a gorgeous pop-up theatre in the elegant Crystal Room at Killarney Country Club, the piece could be described as a solo stand-up show, but that would be inaccurate for a number of reasons. For one thing, the script – by Strato Capteros, Sideropolous and Beverley Cooke-Tonnesen – deals in philosophical and observational statements as much as it does punchlines, and for another, the show makes the most of Sideropoulos’ theatrical experience by incorporating costume changes; violent (well, from the perspective of one of the props, at any rate) setpieces; top-notch lighting and a deadpan co-star/assistant (Aurelie Stratton, Manuel to Sideropoulos’ Basil Fawlty) to keep matters moving along at a brisk, whip-smart pace.
Everyone is involved is on top form, and they have to be, as director Gina Shmukler’s influence is clearly evident in the precision with which dozens of marks are hit, with Sideropoulos needing to fit complex phrases between audio and lighting cues that leap, sometimes, it seems, out of nowhere. This multi-layered approach makes Seriously?! feel like either a stand-up performance of rare extravagance or an unusually intimate theatre work, and whichever way you go, that makes for a positive, invigorating experience.
Sideropoulos launches squarely into a number of subjects that deserve constant parody – the widespread obsession with social media, and within that the daft need to take and share pictures of every meal, or to base your own worth on whether people you only know via social media interact with you in a way you feel is worthwhile. Alongside that are observations about the challenges of maintaining a strong self-image and the profound exasperation felt when realising that people who are superficial, and possibly stupid, are enjoying far more influence than you’d hope any sensible person would allow them.
There are a good many great jokes, and there are as many intimations of topics far more serious and thought-provoking, though the latter are delivered without ever dampening the mood of the piece. Ultimately, audiences are asked to interrogate what it is in their own lives that is given energy and intent and whether those ideas or pastimes are worth that investment. And that is subject matter worth taking…seriously.