“Tried and tested” stage comedy showing signs of age

“Tried and tested” stage comedy showing signs of age

SHOW: MY FAT FRIEND
CAST: TOBIE CRONJE, MICHELLE BOTHA, JEREMY RICHARD, CHARLIE BOUGUENON
DIRECTOR: ANDRE ODENDAAL
VENUE: PIETER TOERIEN’S MONTECASINO THEATRE, MONTECASINO, FOURWAYS, UNTIL OCTOBER 2
REVIEWER: PETER FELDMAN

Some time back I reviewed ‘Vettie, Vettie’, which was the Afrikaans version of Charles Laurence’s somewhat dated comedy, ‘My Fat Friend’. It provided a good laugh.
The star on that occasion was the irrepressible Tobie Cronjė, one of theatre’s most enduring comic talents, and he once again runs away with the honours because the three other players pale by comparison. This tends to overbalance the production.

When not on stage the tone and energy drops considerably and it’s left to his character, and the rapid-fire one-liners, to lift the spirit. It could be the “Tobie Cronjė Show” and his antics alone will certainly draw audiences as he has a faithful following in these parts.
‘My Fat Friend’, I’m afraid, is looking tired. Its gay stance (played to the hilt by Cronjė’s Henry character) and fatty jokes are no longer funny and despite desperate efforts by the cast to add vim and vigour to the proceedings, I left the theatre somewhat disappointed.

While Cronjė leads the charge as Henry, the worldly-wise, meddling boarder who stirs things up in the household of oversized book dealer Vicky (Michelle Botha), the remaining players never quite deliver. It leaves the production a little lop-sided.
Michelle Botha, best known on the stage for delivering some great vocal performances in musicals, never quite gets a handle on her Vicky interpretation, conveying her dialogue with such speed that at times it was difficult to absorb.

Jeremy Richard, as the young, impressionable Scottish lad James Anderson, who cooks up a storm in the kitchen and also lends a hand in Vicky’s book shop, provides an unusual mix of accents – and again it is difficult to understand what he is saying.
Charlie Bouguenon plays Thomas, the man who falls in love with Vicky, goes overseas for a few months, and on his return discovers to his shock that a new-look Vicky confronts him.
The set, a neatly arranged London home, is impressive and the lighting and sound are spot-on.
There are plenty of laughs, though, to be had in Andrė Odendaal’s production – he was also responsible for directing the Afrikaans version – and audiences certainly need a diversion from some of the heavier, more serious theatre around at the moment.

* For bookings, visit http://online.computicket.com/web/event/my_fat_friend/1011086252/0/72277006.