Pictures: Val Adamson.
DIANE DE BEER
BENNY BUSHWACKER: Human Nature
Starring BEN VOSS
Written by John van de Ruit
Directed by Janice Honeyman
The Studio Theatre @ Montecasino until October 20
For many there might be much counting against venturing out for a theatre experience titled Benny Bushwacker: Human Nature.
It might appeal to the nature crowd, but depending on the seriousness of your calling, this might just sound too silly rather than wacky which might appeal.
What does catch the attention are the names Ben Voss and John van de Ruit. These two stage chums first made their mark with a series of Mamba two-handers before Voss stepped into another persona with the solo shows Bend it Like Beauty and Beauty and the BEE.
Van de Ruit in the meantime hit the headlines with his series of popular Spud books. The two again team up for this latest incarnation with Voss starring as Benny Bushwacker, a man who is desperately passionate about the environment.
While he tries to impart a serious message (which he does), he is also desperately funny – and the specific use of desperately becomes clear when you hysterically hear his version of natural disasters, sound effects and meltdown included.
And it is the memory of Voss pushing the envelope and his excellence on stage that might pull you into this one – and you would be following the right instincts.
He is an extraordinary performer and just watching him perform, his skills, his detail to attention, his bravado and determination to hold everyone in that intimate theatre close while telling Bushwacker’s story, is something to behold.
Not only is Bushwacker, a nature man with a mission, in full flight, he also calls on a series of commentators, including his frail yet feisty gran and his spud-deficient nature buddy with the soprano voice as a result, for example. The acting is a tour de force.
As director Honeyman says: “He’s a good actor, and a thinking actor.” That shows and adds to the weight of the wackiness. She also admires the “less didactic, preachy context” of the text, which is what Van de Ruit explores so brilliantly.
They make a good pair because they obviously understand each other, which is the true strength of their collaboration.
But in the end, it is Voss’s performance perfection that turns this into mindful entertainment, not that anything stands between you and the laughter which takes over as Benny gets on a roll.
In these harsh times when we’re overwhelmed by a world at war with itself and its people on many different levels, escapism is worth striving for. And laughter is the best way to do that with Voss a master puppeteer to get this particular show on the road.
He has all the attributes to pull it off – and he does.
While touring South Africa, Benny Bushwhacker is raising awareness and moola for the Lebombo Leopard – Human Conflict Survey which all becomes clear when seeing the show.