Comedy Review: Made-Up Mirth, Or Where Cauliflower Meets Dinosaurs

April 4, 2015



The Jittery Citizens / Kippies, Market Theatre, Johannesburg / 22 March


Attending a show at Kippies, the ex jazz club  that is now a tiny remnant of what used to be among the high-rise development that now characterises Johannesburg’s Newtown, enables audiences to feel like they’ve wandered into one of those wonderfully vital repurposed public spaces that dot Grahamstown during the National Arts Festival every year.

To begin with, the performance fits that sort of mould too, a little ramshackle, requiring a bit of time to build momentum. The Jittery Citizens are an improvisational comedy troupe, so that stuttered start is forgivable – expected, even – as they get a sense of what sort of audience they’re working with and what type of cues they can expect from those in the cheap seats.

Beginning each half of the show is guest performer David Kibuuka (this show only; the Citizens choose a new victim/collaborator for every show) who must come up with five minutes – an eternity, in improv terms – of on-the-spot riffing about subjects presented by audience members. He manages pretty well with first, er, “cauliflower” and then “T-Rex”, giving his colleagues just about enough to work with in their skits, which follow.

As is the case in any unscripted performance, some segments are stronger than others, but every cast member has their time to shine as the topics twitch and turn unexpectedly, from cheese revolutions to dinosaurs using military-style hand (claw?) gestures to communicate.

James Cairns, though a hugely generous performer, steals every scene he’s in, with perhaps the highlight of the show being when he plays the Nazi officer who is the focal point of his award-winning play Sie Wiess Alles, but as a cheese, demanding to see the papers of a tub of Marmite roaming Germany in the dark along with her companion, a salami (ah, the beauty of improv).

Fran Slabolepszy specialises in hilariously underplaying many of her characters, making their unlikely shyness and reticence a punchline in itself, and the always flamboyant Bruce Little plays brilliantly to type, with an off-the-cuff composition delivered in the style of the Kaapse Klopse inspiring a belly laugh that lasts for several minutes.

The Citizens are a well-balanced, intelligent and innovative unit. On a night when the audience gives them very little, they’ll still be well worth the ticket price. And if they get a crowd with a bit of imagination, there’s no telling how left of centre they’ll wander.