Bend It Like Beauty reviewed

Durbanites have just 4 more nights to catch one-man comedy show Bend It Like Beauty at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, located at the University of KwaZulu-Natal's Howard College Campus. Having recently played for 3 weeks in London theatres, and about to hit the Grahamstown National Arts Festival, Bend It Like Beauty has been enjoying a 2-week Durban run from 15- 27 June.

Written and performed by South African theatre personality Ben Voss, Bend It Like Beauty centres on fictional character Beauty Ramapelepele, a former domestic worker who, as a previously disadvantaged black woman, has thrived in post-Apartheid South Africa thanks to her Afrocentric clothing range and excellent political connections. Basically Beauty, and Voss's whole act, can be viewed as a 21st Century version of Pieter-Dirk Uys's beloved "man in drag" creation, Evita Bezuidenhout.

Already popularised on radio stations East Coast Radio and Jacaranda FM, Beauty Ramapelepele is not the magnanimous Tannie (Aunty) Evita, however. Closer to Uys's other creation, whiny suburban socialite Nowell Fine, Beauty is filled with prejudices and complaints - and always tells things as they are. Although never spiteful, Beauty doesn't sidestep crudity or racism. In fact, she takes a dig at all of South Africa's various ethic groups, as well as the inhabitants of many other countries - particularly now as we're enjoying an influx of international tourists during the Football World Cup. No one is safe from her incisive, politically incorrect wit. And with the show set after Beauty's recent diplomatic visit to the UK - where she achieved British citizenship - the English, Americans and Zimbabweans are subjected to the most ribbing.

In all honesty, though, most of the laughs in Bend It Like Beauty come simply from Voss's hilariously spot-on performance. If you close your eyes you'd honestly think you're listening to a middle-aged, black South African woman. In addition, Voss segues effortlessly into other accents as Beauty imitates everyone from British immigration officials to Durban Indians with their colourful slang.

Bend It Like Beauty is a 90 minute show, with just enough crass, sexually suggestive content to earn it a "No under 14s" age restriction. That shouldn't deter theatre goers however. Bend It Like Beauty is a lot of fun, and definitely worth watching if it comes to your South African city - or any international venue near you - in the coming months.

For the rest of Bend It Like Beauty's Durban run you can book for the show on Computicket. Evening performances in Durban are R75 a ticket Sunday through Thursday, while Fridays and Saturdays are R90 per person.

The above clip isn't from Bend It Like Beauty. It's taken from Pieter-Dirk Uys's touring show last year, but it provides a good example of Voss as Beauty... while she interacts with Tannie Evita.


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