By BRUCE DENNILL
Mamba Republic / Directed by Dr Mervyn McMurtry / Auto & General Theatre On The Square, Sandton, Johannesburg
John van de Ruit and Ben Voss have been busy since creating a platform for themselves with satirical sketch shows Green Mamba and Black Mamba, the former with writing multiple best-sellers and converting them into high-grossing feature films and the latter with a wide range of acting and writing word, both on stage and on screen.
Their return to the formula they established in those early shows with Mamba Republic sees the pair resume their easy chemistry and features writing that occasionally steps away from the more straightforward tenets of insightful spoofing and presents a darker, edgier side to their shared perspective – perhaps a consequence of a more mature worldview and a greater comfort with their place in it.
In many ways, this new material is not too different from that delivered by a number of South African stand-up comedians, using the same raw materials – the antics of politicians; trending social media topics and current affairs. But the presentation certainly gives the work a fillip, particularly when Van de Ruit and Voss play well-defined characters in direct opposition with each other (a scene in a store selling baby supplies is particularly funny).
The other stand-out moments are when the duo knowingly step over the line, understanding that a particular sequence of gags or observations will either anger or at unsettle at least half of their audience. This mechanism has the effect of offering more than one opinion on a controversial issue, and thus underlining the complexity of that scenario without providing any set rule to base a judgement call on.
Mamba Republic is effective satire that makes you giggle. Job done.