DIANE DE BEER
Nataniël has just finished his annual season at Emperor’s celebrating his 30 years as a solo artist with a season of 30 Years, 90 Minutes: Nataniël Celebrates 3 Decades On Stage.
One of my treats during these 30 years, has been revisiting a production towards the end of a run.
Because his shows have always been dense both visually and in content, review nights were particularly tense for me. This second time round, without stress, is my particular penchant.
I am not just inhaling and observing a one-off season, but one that has been 30 years in the making, was particularly informative and revealing about his creativity, his innovation and imagination.
That’s the way to do it! “I don’t want to bore people with one thing after another of the past,” he said. This was not going to be a best of…
What it was however was an insight into his mind, his personal favourites and a showcase of what he does best starting with his songs and his stories and then everything that he builds and layers around that.
The arrangements of the cover songs he sang, You’re My World by Cilla Black and Lately by Stevie Wonder ( a song he wished he had written, so perfectly it suits his voice) among others, were completely delicious as was some of his own music like Fall which he described as his personal favourite of what he titles his no-hit wonders!
His voice has matured magnificently and he is completely comfortable and confident and enhances his distinctive voice with the additional sounds of Dihan Slabber and Nicolaas Swart. And he is joined by a spectacular band led by Charl du Plessis (keyboards) and completed by Jean Oosthuizen (guitars), Hugo Radyn (drums) and Werner Spies (bass) who have worked with him for a very long time which means they can push the boundaries- and they do.
It’s a complete package that holds the rest of the show in a soundscape that runs through all the emotional hefts of a Nataniël story. And this was a show of single stories, each one a showcase of this master at spinning a yarn that has you screaming with laughter yet leaves you with a moment of melancholy that runs deep.
He tells a tale of a vision that he was holding on to while making a truck-load of paper flowers. The repetition of the task was offset by what they were hoping to achieve – only to fail disastrously. Then comes the question. “What happens to you when the most beautiful thing you have ever seen is only real in your imagination? You go mad…”
And then it all becomes clear. The set that has been constructed on stage from the start of the show, is this particular image and with Nataniël’s extraordinary lighting abilities (he changes his costumes instantly with the colour and angle of the lights), he achieves exactly that. Not only for himself though, it’s also a vision for his audience. And it starts with what might seem a silly story about student escapades!
He speaks about extraordinary people doing ordinary things. But he constantly presents us with what seems ordinary – only to surprise us with wonderful stage wizardry.
That is the wonderment of his craft. And why it has been such bliss to watch the growth and explosive evolvement of this artist and his shows. It is a completely immersive adventure as you step into this fantasy landscape once that first note comes at you, usually from a darkened stage which reveals itself.
His shows are always that – a slow reveal.
Yet nothing is slow about his costumes (designed by Floris Louw) that glitter and dazzle, not in the expected fashion though and more Louis IV than Liberace.
This was his final curtain – for now – after 15 years at this venue, and he wanted to leave in style – which of course he did, powerfully.
He also wanted, in typical Nataniël style, to easily segue into his next venture, a smashing book on his costumes called Closet, to be released on October 9. His latest TV series also starts this week on Wednesday, Edik van Nantes 3 on DStv’s kykNET (144) at 8pm with repeats following.
So while he’s stepping off the big stage for just a moment, he leaves you with marvelous memories.
Thirty years of uniquely Nataniël performances have done that. He truly is a national theatrical treasure.
There’s still a chance to catch the show for some: Opera House, Port Elizabeth: 20 and 21 October; and Sand du Plessis, Bloemfontein; 26 to 28 October: