Nataniël’s Blast of Brilliance, 30 Years in 90 Minutes at Emperors Palace

Pictures: Lorinda van den Berg





SINGERS: Nicolaas Swart, Dihan Slabbert

MUSICIANS: Charl du Plessis (piano), Juan Oosthuizen (guitars), Hugo Radyn (drums), Werner Spies (bass)

COSTUMES: Floris Louw

UNTIL September 24

Celebrating 30 years as a solo artist is quite something. Doing it in the spectacular style as Nataniël does in 30 Years, 90 Minutes is awesome but not unexpected.

Having watched him for most of those 30 years bar the first few, what has excited me most is to watch his work evolving with time, to witness the confidence grow slowly allowing him to take more and more risks until his stage brand was completely embedded.

That doesn’t mean that he keeps doing the same. This current show says everything about his past but also gives us glimpses into the future.

Nataniël has always noted that the vision for his shows begins with the costumes. It sets the tone for everything else. The costumes are the thing visually. Not that they haven’t always been but they have competed with everything else happening on stage. One always knew that you would be missing some effects at first viewing of his shows, because there was so much going on.

This time though, the stage is stripped and more than anything, the costumes and his breath-taking lighting give the visual cues. A red shimmering jacket sparkles in the light or is turned into a black jacket with flashes of red and a closing outfit is transformed in colour and texture from the beginning to the end of the song. It’s magical!

Nicolaas Swart, Nataniël and Dihan Slabbert

All of that, as well as the set, are completely woven into the fabric of the storytelling, even when his stories don’t form one narrative other than being proof of his extraordinary ability to capture the imagination and paint pictures with words.

It’s not only the content of the stories, it’s the way they are germinated and have been constructed. In one, for example, he gives you a sentence that could be interpreted in diverse ways depending on how and when it is said, and then he ends that tale with the exact same construct as where it all started. It’s more than smart, it also gives the audience many aspects to engage and play with throughout the show. For those who think he is all about telling a story and singing a song, think again. There’s so much more – even if the former is more than enough. That’s why the longevity and the loyal fanbase.

As someone who has probably seen 90 plus percent of the shows he has created, it was a first for me when one story (spoiler alert: there’s a red Citroen with black stripes involved) was so funny, that my eyes burnt from all the tears caused by laughter.

And then there’s the music. Nataniël has always professed a deep love for singing. It’s what he enjoys most and when you see him live, it shows. His cover versions for those familiar with his music are legendary. His arrangements are so astute, they turn something familiar into something fabulous and he does a handful exquisitely in the show.

The choice of music for this season also includes something old and something new in his self-penned repertoire. To be reacquainted with some of the old tunes and being gifted something new, all adds to the richness of the production.

In addition to all of that you have the accompaniment of four supreme musicians (all in their own right) as well as two gifted singers that add even more tone and texture to the different songs. It is the complete package.

That’s the thing about a Nataniël show. Every detail is covered.

And to top it all, there’s the performer himself. It is his individuality, his unique gift for storytelling and song (creating and performing), his vision and his obsession to keep it fresh that transforms the stage and auditorium into the perfect dreamscape for 90 minutes.

He gives you what you want but in a new guise.

That’s genius!


Nataniël Celebrates 30 Years on Stage

By Diane de Beer

Nataniël celebrates three decades on stage with 30 years, 90 minutes running from Friday August 24 until Sunday September 24 at Theatre of Marcellus, Emperors Palace. He will be joined by Charl du Plessis (piano), Juan Oosthuizen (guitar), Werner Spies (bass), Hugo Radyn (drums), Dihan Slabbert (vocals), and Nicolaas Swart (vocals).The show starts at 8pm from Thursdays to Saturdays, and at 3pm on Sundays. No children under the age of 15 will be permitted.  Fans can also purchase a limited-edition luxury souvenir programme at the show.

Nataniel show pic
30 years, 90 minutes

Even in those early years it was clear that this would never be a problem. Apart from being a mover with a mission, he has always been a solo creative soul that could slip easily between genres, conjure up creative endeavours and, more than anything to keep himself entertained, come up with something completely different and new at the snap of a finger.

That is what keeps so many intrigued. I was always amazed at critics who complained that his shows were always about telling stories followed by songs. That has always just been the packaging for him but once you creep inside that head, nothing stands still and there’s no time for stagnation. The framework might appear the same, but everything inside has been turned upside down and inside out.

For Nataniël it has always been about change, surprising his audience and keeping them entertained. And that is also how he has gone about planning his 30-year celebration. He wants to make some noise for his audience.

His annual show at Emperors (a stripped-down version played in Cape Town at the beginning of the year) 30 Years, 90 Minutes which opens on August 24, will be a display of his life on stage. Not that he thinks people remember things like that. Or that anything of that nature lasts.

Yet he has very loyal fans and he relishes a sense of occasion. Everyone knows about his obsession for example with Christmas and how he turns this into a magical spectacle for himself and those close to him. A similar principle applies

“My career is 30 years old, I’m not dying,” he says about the celebrations. And that is why he will focus on longevity rather than legendary status. “This will be the mother of all celebrations!” That’s all he basically says about the show. In typical Nataniël fashion, he doesn’t reveal too much.

Take him by his word though and get ready to party. Nataniël is serious about the secrecy in which he shrouds his shows. As a journalist, he gives you enough to do a story and there is something of what he will put on stage but on opening night, when you see what he has created, it’s as much a revelation as if you hadn’t been told anything.

That’s his thing, his magic trick. It is all about the unexpected, the way he tells stories, even his song choices and how he performs them. How will they be arranged, musically performed and how will they fit into a show. There’s nothing left to chance for this perfectionist performer.

He wants to celebrate those who performed with him in the past as well as unveil some of who he is for those who perform with him now and weren’t born then. That’s just the way his mind meanders. “It’s about looking ahead,”he says “What will the new chapter look like?”

Rehearsals, when the whole show comes together, that’s some of his happiest moments. That’s what he wants to show. “It opens like a rehearsal,” he says. “I want the audience to know about the process.” He describes the show as a “night of the forgotten”, stories and shows as he went in search of archive material, that he had forgotten about. “Everything that appears on stage has been on stage before – all my favourite elements of the past 30 years.” It even means re-staging some of his biggest flop moments

Those who follow his career will need little encouragement. They know they have a formidable artist in their midst, someone extraordinarily special, who on a night will blow their mind … perhaps their world!

Nataniel CD cover
Packaging is the appeal

But that’s only half of it. Already part of the celebrations, Nataniël also released a celebratory CD this year, One Day In A Castle. “I like that booklet packaging,” he says about his decision to produce it in CD format. He describes this one as one of the most honest productions he has done. “I wasn’t doing it for airtime, didn’t want it to sound plastic-y, wanted lush arrangements and rich sounds,” he says. He’s achieved all that!

And then there’s the book. He cleverly decided to tell his story with visuals – his costumes no less. That’s how he views his world. When he does a show, or thinks up his next story, it is to the costumes he turns first. It’s all about the look, the pictures he will present and how he shows the world his life.

That’s what this costume book represents – the story of his stage shows and, if you listened carefully through the years, his life. But that’s not all. The way he orchestrates his world is a lesson for those trying to forge a career.

Because he is always doing three things at a time, he tends to intertwine, pull those strands together that can work many streams and explore everything in different ways. His last TV show, shot in an old chateau just outside Nantes, also benefited from his extravagant costumes. With his brother Erik, the photographer of these costume pictures, also part of the production team and co-presenter with Nataniël on his Nantes TV series, these costume sessions would conclude each episode while also presenting the chance to capture the images for his book and posterity.

Because of the way his imagination runs wild, each shoot turned into a production itself. Not all the costumes were shot in the charming French countryside and sometimes it would mean building the fantasy he hoped would best tell the tale on his return back home. “We built sets which exploded into a circus in a forest,” he notes. But they also had to recreate some of the sets from previous shows. It’s the kind of detail his precision demands.

His practical side also slips into the equation though. Even if he wants this to be the most exquisite book in the world, he doesn’t want a coffee table book that gathers dust. It must be affordable and something that people will dip into with delight.

Nataniel in costume
Nataniël’s work of art

He has always been clear about his costumes: “It can’t go on stage if it isn’t a work of art,” he says simply.

For him, the costumes are the best representation of his life. “It is the only thing I collect,” he says, which for this super compulsive shopper (generous to a fault, so usually for others) is some confession.

In the end, looking back, he’s shocked. “I have been making a career for 30 years living in obscurity. And I’m not even a politician,” he claims.

And he does giggle when he finds himself in the middle of a shoot, a male in a tutu surrounded by a clutch of colourful chairs! Outside of context, he knows this is ridiculous. But that is his life and that’s why people listen to every word and follow each step he takes.

It is his extraordinary mind, the way he draws the curtain on the way he thinks, embraces the world and invites them to share his fantastical vision.