Strooijonker, a debut with potential

Resensie: Strooijonker

Deur Barbara Loots

I walk out of Strooijonker wondering: “Is it a play, or is it stand-up?” A comedy it is, but it feels like it should be a special kind of sub-genre: an actor acting out a best man’s unfiltered ‘stand-up’ confessions at what one would assume to be his now ex-best friend’s wedding.

Lukas Basson’s desperate attempt at delivering a brilliant best man speech hits the desperate mark good and proper and his champagne indulgence doesn’t aid him at all. Disastrous for the ‘strooijonker’, but potentially hilarious for you as (wedding) guest in attendance. Potentially alas is where it stops for now.

The fact that De Klerk Oelofse as Lukas is your one man welcoming committee, when you ‘arrive’ at Jean and Cheryl’s wedding reception, is a novel idea in Afrikaans theatre with audience members sitting four at a table throughout the hall. This allows for a jovial Oelofse to cunningly draw you into the façade that this is in fact a real wedding.

As the play progresses, Lukas becomes extremely comfortable behind the mic, with Oelofse giving him a very quirky and likable stage presence, calling on you to toast everything and everyone along with him. By the time he is well marinated, dropping glasses as well as decorum, it becomes clear that Strooijonker is a ‘dronk verdriet’ story on steroids. Oelofse convincingly introduces you to three different versions of Lukas: the fake-it-till-you-make-it confident, the over-sharing jealous gossip and ultimately the dejected and disgraced ‘friend’. In so doing, he keeps building on the growth he has shown over the last few years and stands before the audience an actor worthy and commanding enough of the gravitas of a one-man play.

Yet something is amiss. Somewhere in the middle of the performance something causes him to drop the comedic tempo and the punster ball just too long. That breaks both your connection with Lukas and the comedic rhythm that should build up to uproarious laughter. As an actor, Oelofse can but only dish up as much comedy as the boundaries of the play allow. The timing of this piece seems to fail him, because of what appears to be either a dead space in the adapted script or a missed direction opportunity.

Strooijonker is an Afrikaans adaptation of Louw Venter’s 2010 one man play Best Man, which later also inspired the 2014 movie Konfetti,  and the guidance of Rob van Vuuren is very noticeable in the comedic mannerisms and physical theatre aspects that help reveal Lukas and his inner demons to the audience. Perhaps the direction does not properly interpret the script, or maybe it is a case that the latter is more translation than adaption, with key comedic moments not finding its mark as easily in Afrikaans as it did in English.  Oelofse’s dexterous physical theatre antics alone are not enough to bridge that gap.

Strooijonker has a strong element of insult comedy. Yet, insult comedy requires a delicate balance. In its current format this show is more Jim Carrey than it is Don Rickles in that the physical comedy aspect has nothing to build on when it comes to the degree and quality of wit in the script. There are certainly funny moments, with politically incorrect statements highlighting people’s prejudices in the context of wedding speech clichés, and your typical wedding faux pas causing nervous, perhaps even guilty, bouts of giggles to trickle through the audience.

Even though as a comedy it doesn’t build up sufficiently to be described as hilarious, it isn’t an unpleasant theatre experience. A warning to the wise though: Enter sober, exit drunk… if you are going to keep up with Lukas and every toast he makes.


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