It’s been a remarkable year for Nataniël with his first memoir published in both Afrikaans and English last month and a return to Emperors for his spectacular annual show. Now the sparkler on the tip of the Christmas tree is his end-of-year concert at the Atterbury Theatre in his hometown.
The title, Lily Refuses to Listen, is already worth the price of admission, but especially for those whose spirits are dampened by the distress of today’s world, this is one to opt for. An escape that will have you thinking while laughing and crying from start to finish!
From Tuesday December 3 tot Sunday December 8, Nataniël presents a brand new show at Atterbury Theatre for a limited season of 6 performances only.
“At the end of another year of being bombarded by bad news,” he writes, “damning prophecies, evil politics, corruption, loud neighbours, endless traffic, horrific music, bad advertising and desperate social media,” this is a time to celebrate personal space, personal choices, selective listening, self-care and resilience.
“Out with the bull, in with the beauty!” is his war cry. “Out with the yes, in with the no! Out with the trends, in with the timeless! Out with parties, in with privacy! Out with the ordinary, in with the exclusive!”
“Everybody was screaming as loudly as they could this year,” explains Nataniël as he speaks about the inspiration for this particular show. “Everyone wanted to make sure they would be heard or become famous.”
He also admonishes those who do selective listening. “You have to listen properly,” he says. “I want to tell people that it’s important to listen, not to be intimidated, but to really listen.”
Choice of music is never a problem. He loves Christmas music and often takes old familiar songs and turns them into something individual yet as sacrosanct as the original. Songs from the treasure trove of timeless blues, jazz, soul and pop, as well as original songs will all feature.
Costumes will be to die for, colourful and festive with a contemporary take on a more glorious time.
Lily Refuses To Listen features fantastical stories in both English and Afrikaans, but don’t expect anything to be ordinary or to unfold without exotic names for strange yet wacky and witty creatures and towns with names that remind you that we live in a weird and wonderful world. With this storyteller’s vivid imagination, it’s easy to follow the yellow brick road wherever it leads. And for 90 minutes, what is round might become square, but you would find it difficult to leave.
Nataniël shares the stage with c (piano), Werner Spies (bass) and Peter Auret (drums). Costumes are by Floris Louw and a Kaalkop Christmas Shop will be available in the foyer.
The show is 90 minutes long, with no interval, no cell phones, no shorts and no children under 15.
LILY REFUSES TO LISTEN: 3 – 8 December 2019; Atterbury Theatre; Book at iTickets
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 byStevie 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:
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.