SHOW: Joe Barber 6 – Life
DIRECTOR: Heinrich Reisenhofer
CAST: David Isaacs, Oscar Petersen
VENUE: The Baxter Theatre until
REVIEW: Peter Tromp
It’s hard to believe that the ‘Joe Barber’ series has been around for 15 years. That puts it in the company of cultural products that debuted, or were hot at the tail end of the 1990s. I’m talking about your Britneys, your Backstreet Boys, even your Lim Bizkits; ‘Isidingo’ was still a show about regular people in a mining town, for goodness sake. Since then, the characters played by Oscar Petersen and David Isaacs have become firmly rooted in local popular culture. Since it is something that has lasted for such a long time, it can become easy to take the series for granted as something that just pops up every few years, but offers ever-diminishing thrills – as most cultural products that last this long usually do.
But I’m here to say that ‘Joe Barber’s’ still got it. I can’t remember an instalment that felt so crisp right from the off. Because the formula of the show hinges so much on the charm and chemistry of Isaacs and Petersen, it usually takes a couple of performances for the actors to really hit their groove. The two appeared a little nervy at the start on opening night, but they were soon on point and the audience weren’t laughing as much as howling throughout.
It’s remarkable how much mileage the duo gets out of just a few characters. Part of me suspects that audiences would be happy to listen to Boeta Gamat, Joe, Washiela and Outjie just bantering and bickering between themselves for two hours and that a plot wouldn’t even matter to them. As it is, ‘Life’ does have a plot, although it is hardly ‘Inception’.
Boeta Gamat has been helping out in his community, trying to get a volunteer security team up to snuff. However he constantly runs afoul of a charismatic school principal, who’s on her own mission to restore the community to its former splendour. The fact that both are in the running for the prestigious Community Life Award ups the usual low stakes. (In the world of ‘Joe Barber’, breaking a window can still lead to a world of trouble.)
There’s a reason that ‘Joe Barber’ is still around when other comedic products that threatened to become “franchises” along the way have fallen by the wayside. That simple reason is that it is just so pleasant to sit through.
That might sound like some astounding critical insight right there, but ask yourself, how many comedy shows these days aren’t trying to wallop you with how smart they are every second minute?
Isaacs and Petersen, along with their co-conspirator Heinrich Reisenhofer still adhere to gentler form of joke delivery and in this day and age of over-stimulating everything, that’s actually quite refreshing.
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