Theatre Review: The Full Morty – Memento Morty, Or Mirth And The Male Mind

August 17, 2015



The Full Morty / Directed by Kristy Suttner-Stride / The Fringe, Joburg Theatre, Johannesburg


Nowadays, most comedians tend to offer more than just a mumble into a microphone, particularly in one-man shows where there is a concept rather than just a basic set and a bit of improv.

But few South African performers have the talents displayed by Mortimer Williams, focal point and co-writer (with director Kristy Suttner-Stride) of The Full Morty. Williams is a triple threat – actor, dancer and singer – and is able to do all three to a very high standard while still delivering a strong, well thought-out routine about the content of the average male mind.

Williams never veers towards filth – he doesn’t need to, as the bulk of his observations hit their marks because they’re the result of intelligence, not cynicism. This is not to say there’s nothing in the way of satisfyingly adult material, but when it comes, it’s communicated with a grin, not a leer.

This is part of Williams’ warm, witty stage persona (which turns out to be an extention of his cheerful personality when you meet him in the bar afterwards). Calling him an everyday performer, however, is wildly inaccurate, because, though he can make you feel at ease, like an old friend, Williams has a range of skills that set him apart from his competitors.

He acts well – not a given for a comedian, but perhaps the additional skill most included in the acts of well-know competitors (consider, for instance, the characters that populate Marc Lottering’s skits). When he adds movement to that acting, however, Williams starts to really shine. Most of the dancing he does is intended to be comedic in its own right – think of the distinctive routine made famous by the character Carlton in The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air – but it being funny to watch doesn’t mean it’s easy to perform, and anyone in the audience who’s tried a similar move will concede that Williams has formidable talent in this area.

However, it’s his singing that will likely provide the highlights reel post-show. He uses songs to expand and elaborate on comedic themes, giving the show a half stand-up, half cabaret feel that adds up to consistent entertainment throughout. Williams’s notable range is matched by his tone, and were he to decide to drop the other aspects of the formula used here, he’d give equal value for money with a music-only production.

There are occasional lapses in pace, with one section where he works through the husbands might present an agenda across a number of cultural categories (ie how a white guy would do it, then a black guy, then an Indian guy and so on) being relatively unconvincing, but for the most part, this is high quality feel-good entertainment and the calling card of a top all-round entertainer capable of doing anything he likes on stage.