A fantastic performance riddled with anecdotal but relatable scenes, tied together with beautiful music, making it a must watch for theatre lovers.
Wits University School of Arts lecturer, Fiona Ramsay and pianist Tony Bentel perform at the Iyabuya iPOPArt festival to showcase their talents and successful careers with over 35 years in the South African entertainment industry.
The talents of Ramsay and Bentel’s Old and the Beautiful, helped wrap up the festival as the final act on March 30 and 31, 2023, at the Red Roof Theatre in Milpark. The festival had a three month run from January 2023, with performances from a range of artists at various venues.
The show opened with a spotlight centered on Ramsay surrounded by props of head statues bejeweled with fancy gems indicating wealth, with Bentel playing an upbeat tune. The pair then moved quickly into the next scene with jokes about how covid-19 gave people the ability to hide their identities because of the thousands of masks that were purchased, a joke received with loud, unmasked guffaws.
Ramsay and Bentel put on a show filled with humorous anecdotes related to the covid-19 pandemic, unemployment, loadshedding, gender inequality, and the unavoidable fact of getting old. The dynamic duo made reference to the well-known works of Marianne Faithfull and singing “Maybe this time” in their reenactment of the Broadway show Cabaret.
Each scene in the performance draws upon different issues people face in South Africa while adding a witty twist to create the ultimate form of escapism. The show begins with, “Who doesn’t want to be rich,” a song about struggles artists face when looking for work and the reality of unemployment in the arts industry. The stage props help set each scene with props of clown noses worn by Ramsay and Bentel to indicate that the real jokes are themselves for believing they could have successful careers in the arts but that their optimism, along with a little dope, helps them cope.
While the show deals with dull, often depressing topics, it also manages to make light of these issues through a satirical lens. When asked for their thoughts by Wits Vuvuzela, one audience member called it, “depressingly humorous”. Ramsay brings unique characters to life, such as Denise from an old age home in Welkom, who is staring “death” in the face while reliving her memories. The soundtrack to this is a mix of dramatic and calm classical music played by Bentel, which perfectly scores the emotional scenes as they unfold.
The stage is set with props and rugs from Bentel’s lounge, the stage of the pair’s first performance together eight years ago. Ramsay describes their act as a “satirical look on the madness of life,” and says that “if you don’t laugh, you get too stiff and serious but if you laugh, you are able to escape a little and move forward.”
The lighting changes for each scene and seems to reflect the emotions felt in every act – blue for the sadness and loneliness felt when getting old and red for the frustration brought on by loadshedding and potholes. Each scene tells a story of its own while adding the razzle dazzle qualities associated with theatre, a truly spectacular experience.
When asking the event organiser, Hayleigh Evans said the show exceeded her expectations, and going forward she hopes, “[Having] a live and consistent, permanent program where performers can thrive”, will bring people together.
Ramsay and Bentel are currently both working on projects of their own but plan on having many more magical performances together in the future.
FEATURED IMAGE: Wits School of Arts lecturer Fiona Ramsay singing during her performance of the Old and Beautiful at AFDA’s Red Roof Theatre in Milpark during the Iyabuya Festival on March 31. Photo: Georgia Cartwright
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