Siv Ngesi’s stand-up comedy show Race Card, now on at The Baxter is loudly going where nobody else is managing to go. Yes, his show takes big, fat pot shots at every race in South Africa, and he is very, very funny. His stuff is well observed; combining stereotype with quirky and unusual but very, randomly true. Blacks love chicken. Whites have personal space issues. Afrikaaners complain. Siv is also warm, sexy and totally loveable. So loveable that nothing he says offends. This is a great recipe for successful stand-up.
But none of this stuff is why I had an epiphany during his delicious show last night. I had an epiphany when I looked at the audience and it was a properly, totally, completely mixed one, race wise. Black, coloured, white, local, foreign, even a late ou in a wheel chair for good measure. Now, we spent a lot of time at the GIPCA Directors and Directing Playwrights symposium talking about, complaining about and bemoaning the lack of transformation in theatre, the lack of authentic black theatre for black audiences, the lack of cross over theatre for all to enjoy blah blah blah blah. We did a shit load of talking and blaming and calling on this hot and hectic issue. And here was Siv (who was not at the GIPCA thing), gamely and unselfconsciously breaking down these hectic barriers. Yes, his delivery is (mostly) in English, but it is a language and style that everybody understands. Yes he calls himself a coconut, in an “ag, what can you do?” kind of way, and this just makes it ok to be a coconut. He trampled heavily over all sorts of sensitivities that other performers are so goddamn sensitive about and we all laughed our heads off. We laughed at, about and with each other. What a relief. What a relief to be in a guilt free space, with the entire demographic of SA (bar a Chinese) laughing, laughing, laughing. Because, I wanna tell you, I left The Baxter (who charged me R2 for a paper cup for my damn wine) full of love for everybody in this crazy, messed up country of ours. I left with a sense that we were going to make it after all, in spite of our differences, the opinions, the politics and the separationists. Guys like Siv bring us together.