South Africa, Life, etc

Theatre Review: Alan Committie’s Planet Mirth is ‘delightfully fresh’

By Lesley Stones 30 January 2018

Is a review of an Alan Committie show destined to become as predictable as one of his performances? By LESLEY STONES.

If Alan Committie is on form, you know I’m going to gush about how witty he is, with a sharp brain that delivers oodles of intelligent humour and legs that do some appallingly funny dancing, until you roll out into the night still laughing.

All pretty predetermined.

Yep, you know what to expect with a Committie show. His style has deviated a few times in his long-running career, but mostly there’s one man, one loose theme, minimal props including a flip chart, and well-rehearsed banter with the flexibility to be nudged off course by audience reactions.

You know he’ll berate anyone with the audacity to arrive late – which is why the show starts crisply on time. Maybe Cyril Ramaphosa’s new decree that ANC events must be punctual came because he was once a latecomer publicly upbraided by Committie. One never knows.

While everything stays the same in format the content is always different, so his new show Planet Mirth is staple fare, but delightfully fresh. It’s quite a comfort to have this nice sense of stability in our madly-whirring world.

Dubbed a docu-comedy, it runs from the creation of the solar system to life on Earth today, performed against a star-spangled backdrop and planets with emoji faces.

It’s directed by his long-term collaborator Christopher Weare, and the slick presentation never gets in the way of spontaneity and soul.

It’s peppered with puns and clever word plays that literally have laughs erupting in one spot while others are still figuring it out. “Good response over here, nothing over there,” he quips, often.

The planet is a pretty big subject that lets him reimagine the filming of a David Attenborough documentary, and analyse the bawdy lyrics to the earworm pop song Despacito. While dancing to the music in his hilarious style of cuddly Blairgowrie-bop meets Latino-lover. His other antics are equally mirth-making, with silly walks to demonstrate the cramped conditions of a salesman’s shorts or the collective efforts of a hiking group. He’s topical too, and the water crisis in Cape Town was milked for all the laughter he could muster.

The front row of the audience is his sacrificial offering from the rest of us, he laughs, asking a few questions of victims who catch his eye. The secret if you’re picked on is to give it your all. There’s nowhere to hide, and we’re laughing with you, not at you. Committie does these audience interactions gently but brilliantly, conjuring up instant jokes as he riffs off the answers.

One slight annoyance is that he’s adopted the phrase “you know what I mean?” and it pops up repeatedly, perhaps without him even realising. Coming from this smart guy, it’s as annoying as hearing a teenager muttering “like” three times in every sentence. There are a few moments too where the pace flags a little, then he’s on to something else and the giggles return.

Committie’s intellectual patter has us laughing at science and history, and he weaves in recurring themes that sometimes make us guffaw, sometimes make us groan. Then comes a wacky dose of sign language over a news commentary – he always likes to stretch himself and learn something fresh, he grins. That applies to the audience too, as Committie stretches our brains to see things differently.

His humour and actions can be quite ridiculous, with ridiculously good results. As predicted. DM

Planet Mirth runs until 25 February at Montecasino Theatre. Tickets from Computicket.

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