The packed Victoria Theatre goes dark. The voice of a female operator comes on saying: “Welcome to Mamba Republic. The show will begin in one minute. But a minute in South Africa could mean an hour or two.”
Mamba Republic had begun, and audience members were treated to an hour of intense laughter at everything “going wrong” in the beloved Rainbow Nation.
Ben Voss and John van de Ruit kept audience members in stitches as they impersonated current newsmakers in South Africa and the faces behind them. Voss is best known for his Beauty Ramapelepele persona, while Van de Ruit can be remembered for his four-part Spud novel.
Mamba Republic makes up the trilogy alongside their Green Mamba show back in 2002 and the follow-up Black Mamba, which came in 2005. The two shows gained popularity across the country, and began the cult of telling the country’s realities through rapid paced satirical sketches. From South African politics, racism and social stereotypes to Oscar Pistorius, everything that made worldwide news in South Africa was savagely looked at.
The show kicks off with the two comedians as football commentators for the FU Cup (pronounced as one word). The cup, which takes place at Soccer City, is a political match between the ANC and the DA.
Political leaders come under fire and no one in the political arena escapes – Jacob Zuma, Helen Zille, Mmusi Maimane and Baleka Mbete are just a few of the public figures that take a dig during the live coverage of the match.
The ANC “continues to play with no opponents”, and when President Zuma scores an own goal and the commentators respond with “LaZuuuuma!”, the audience is left howling with laughter.
Crowd member Sharleen Da Costa found the show to be “relevant to what is happening in South Africa right now”.
“Bringing in humour made it easy to stomach and accept all that is going wrong in the country.”
The stage was clad with a series of movable back panels placed alongside each other, forming slides of images of national and international landmarks. Stage props were changed to suit each scene. Tables, chairs, trolleys and bars were rolled out as a new scene unfolded.
Through a series of two to five minute sketches, they presented Casual Racism Idols, the Oscar Pistorius Awards, and a crowd favourite, the Rainbow Nation Restaurant, with menu items like “white privilege”, “fees must fall” and the “wheel grilled chicken schnitzel” – named after the Ford Kuga fires.
When asked how long the food would take to make, the waiter (Van de Ruit) says: “We work on African time. Everything comes in five to seven working days.”
Another crowd favourite was the live show with talk show host Richard Pest, who was anticipating an interview with new Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, only for Gupta brother Atul to come out, saying he was the country’s new prime minister.
After a rather confusing interview, Atul asks the crowd to smile for a selfie and then remarks: “This audience has been captured.”
Although some in the audience were ruffled by some issues presented, just the right dose of humour helped them stomach it all.
Mamba Republic, by Mervyn McMurty, is at Victoria Theatre until 8 July.