PS: Afterthought …

DIANE DE BEER

 

Nataniel costume

 

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!

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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:

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

Pictures: Lorinda van den Berg

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DIANE DE BEER

30 YEARS 90 MINUTES

WRITER, DIRECTOR, PERFORMER: Nataniël

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!

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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!