Comedy Review: Alan Committie – Apocalaughs Now, Or Terminal Tomfoolery

October 30, 2021

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Apocalaughs Now // Directed by Christopher Weare // Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre, Fourways, Johannesburg


After months and months (and months and months and months…) of being dark, the stage at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre was filled with, er, garbage – picture the set of Cats, but smaller and with local South African branding (Pick n Pay, we found that missing trolley) – for the return of one of the venue’s favourite sons, Alan Committie.

The mood in the foyer beforehand was jubilant – a touch cautious, with half the number of people usually in the building for an opening night – but happy; sometimes somewhere on the way to delirious as friends and like-minded theatre fans reconnected.

Such a cheerful, chirpy atmosphere is an ideal place to begin a comedy show, and Committie, once he’s made a pleasingly dramatic entrance is obviously as energised onstage as the audience is in the multi-coloured seats. Apocalaughs Now is designed to relate the different parts of its title – the dystopian era we find ourselves in and the perspectives that help us to process it more easily – and Committie manages to do that with all the pace, mischief, improvisational brilliance and snappy writing he’s built a career on.

One of the potential shortfalls in such a show, regardless of how generous those assembled to watch it are feeling, is that, coming out of nearly two years of theatre inactivity, whatever material is under discussion could easily feel dated – we haven’t been able to have the usual sort of interactions, which are often responsible for the usual sort of punchlines.

What makes Apocalaughs Now really work – just getting into the room and letting Committie riff on anything would have been a worthwhile return, but this is so much more than that – is that the funnyman manages to get the tone pretty much exactly right; a function of experience, good judgement and his own on-stage enjoyment.

Committie works his way fairly briskly through the news headlines that punctuated what became “the new normal” in a way that, somehow, brings the audience together over shared experience and even suffering, rather than the more traditional current affairs and politics that often divides onlookers as much as bringing them together. More developed bits on topics as diverse as the Cats movie and, bizarrely, the architecture of the Castle of Good Hope, plus trademark interactions with members of the audience – for this performance, vascular surgeons, barmen, and accountants, who offered a good range of inspiration – ensure that it is impossible not to feel engaged with the show and, for folks venturing back into a much-loved space, there can hardly be a better outcome. That happiness might have been tempered, for those not unused (after a long break) to laughing so much, by sore cheek and abdominal muscles, but if – as Committie closes the show by extorting them to do – they head out again and again and support live entertainment again, they’ll soon be back in shape.

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