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REVIEW: “So…You Think You Can Love?” – Sonia Esgueira

in Comedy by
love

“A Portuguese man, to the people of South Africa, is like a grizzly bear: hairy, growls and eats fish.” – Nelson de Gouveia, after watching Sonia Esgueira

Yes, that quote up there is mine, I’m a comedian and I’m Portuguese. I’m also a man living in a woman’s world, if Sonia Esguiera’s new one-woman play, “So…You Think You Can Love” is anything to go by. And it’s hard to write this review objectively with my own credentials as they are, but thankfully there’s no negative aspects to find in this one-hour circus; she’s worked hard and the results are, well…”she’s a good” as my father would say.
Crying in a line-up photo embraces her poster like a disgraced mom wishing her kids didn’t see it soon enough, but the content by which Sonia explains the dating life she leads is anything but shameful. Ruthless in her quest to be affirmed as a woman in a game full of complicated rules, this brilliant actress takes rudimentary clichés, mixes it up in a cuscuz pot, hands it over to five nattering aunts and cousins to spend an afternoon together gossiping about someone’s penis length well into obscurity, and returns with a cacophony of charm and delight.
 
Not to spoil the content away too much, her humble beginnings looking for love in a speed-dating night exudes desperation, frightening off would-be conveyor-belt suitors like they were just browsing for underwear, and what follows is a journey into a melodramatic dichotomy, searching for love but finding it terribly frustrating. Each segment is represented by a separate personality or a character she’s met in her travels, but in pleasant terms she plays them so well you forget she’s a South African-born Portuguese actress just working hard to be famous, and instead with extremely gifted talent switches from a rapariga trying hard to fall pregnant with the RIGHT man, to an asthmatic restaurateur from a suspiciously CLOSE family origin to my own, of which I’m sure is the case as my hand still smarts from weddings and funerals shaking hands as a child with burly men such as the one she describes.
 
Each segment is pure and well-produced, utilising the Artscape’s theatre credentials with great aplomb as well-placed music segues  from one character to the next. Her Austin Powers-style heart-shaped bed is well-placed in the centre and hides all of the subtle costume changes and, as she plays herself running in the gym on top of it, I dare to believe it’s a metaphor for our own experiences in the magic that is heartbreak. And the finale is well orchestrated, leaving every woman with a hand on her heart, feeling the same pain this misguided young woman with a over-bearing mother and a gaggle of useless Sandton-style friends she had to endure.
 
Ultimately though, the heartbreak is what is at the core of this fine auteur’s magnificently scripted play; the ups and downs of dating is brought forth with a gifted measure of comical effect that we’re left wondering if the pay-off is truly all that bad, as I heartily recommend this one-woman extravaganza to everyone left thinking whether theirs is the only pain left in the whole world. 
 

Five stars.

Sonia Esgueira – So…You Think You Can Love? ran until the 30th March 2013.

What does my Dad dream?

in Life by

As I hear the dragon-esque screams from the aeroplane flying above the home of my two terribly incongruent but tremendously loving parents, lying on my mom’s bed as she’s recovering in hospital from nose surgery and my father in the next room tucked away in his own slumber, I feel a moment of sheer terror as I begin to imagine these dark and twisted thoughts that would be running through his mind as he lays there…a man haunted by death.

For some background, my father is 69 years-old, partially blind and a cancer patient. He fought off two previous scares, 5 heart attacks from defective pacemakers and a splosh of gout on his right leg, but don’t let that fool you.
My mom still makes him take the trash out.
But the disease has returned with some venom, and for the first time so far he’s had to take chemotherapy to stave off the growth that took root in his pancreas and lymphatic system, and finally reached its way into his lung.
Ok, you may think this piece seems somewhat bittersweet from a comedian and I’m sure you’re a little uneasy about reading such intimate details. Suppose it is then? What honour do I bring from laying out such morbid, and frankly quite personal, facts about a man you may not know? What point is there to revealing a factor of our mortality we usually cannot face so readily?
I want you to know this, not because I get a kick out of it…but that you are aware of my intent for what I say below.
Up until this point, this isn’t his first time on the rodeo. It’s already been a few years now that he has faced the threat of letting loose his mortal coil, and Dad has grown accustomed to waving goodnight at 9pm, shuffling off to his bedroom and closing the door to the family he produced.
From then on, I can’t even begin to think that it’s all fine and dandy.
I continue to imagine him getting ready for bed, cover himself with his blanket, turn on his right side like he used to when as a child I found him so, and as he closes his eyes and wishes himself a merry sleep, I descend further into my own version of his madness and poke at that large psychological wall we build around our psyche with signs all around saying, “Here lies your real purpose: to die.”
And what a horrible terror that must be.
With myself being 32, far younger and with hopeful prospects to outmatch his age, I couldn’t blame him if he was sobbing like a child every night, pleading with a whisper through the tears to spare this life for a while longer and only just to keep thinking about the days when he was younger, the antics he pulled and the lessons he learnt.
And then the dreams, for eventually every man so comfortable underneath a roof and surrounded by four walls, sleep will eventually take him and let loose a torrent of perpetual mind-f***s over which he has no control. Memories play like theatre in this world, a menagerie of characters, actors and influences. The loves, the wants, the regrets and the joys, the pain and loss, all scripts in movies he plays overnight like a crap television station.
Doesn’t he go mad?
Well if he does, he never shows it through his stable exterior, chatting to us about various subjects that don’t tax the brain, laughing at jokes and pointing out my ridiculous antics in front of my girlfriend purely just to hear her giggle. The ultimate joker.
He also embues a deep sense of pride in his independence, never asking for assistance standing up from the couch and washing the dishes after my mother’s cooked a meal like any decent husband would. I guess keeping a routine is therapeutic, giving him what little purpose he has left after his retirement from slaving away at odd jobs in private retail outlets for various Portuguese businessmen more successful than he ever was.
But the routine doesn’t end there.
He faces each day knowing there’s a check-up to be had, a bloodtest to be taken, a session of chemotherapy for 6 hours at a time. Walking with a cane is a sight I’d never thought I’d see from him, and he struggles with the rust-coloured inflammation on his aged calf. A few teeth have rotted and fallen out thanks to the harsh cancer treatment, he pricks himself on his finger to check his diabetes every day, and he scratches on the scar by his heart where a pacemaker regulates the heartbeat that keeps him with us everyday.
My father’s body is breaking down.
It’s also hard to ask him what he thinks about, let alone the dreams he has. He’s a gruff man of few words, tends to give opinions about politics and finances the same as any simple folk with simple needs may question, but digger deeper has never been his strength. And my own fear and mismanagement of confrontation cannot wring the truth out of a man who thinks that to be a man…you have to get married.
So I lay here, on my mother’s bed, dreaming his dreams. As I’m not a foremost expert in psychology, I’m sure it’s some disturbing practise I should probably speak to a psychiatrist about but, to theorise why I’m acting so, it’s like…I’m using my father to understand my own fear of death.
I’m terrified of dying, it’s not a fun subject for me. I wish to some mythical power everyday that I mystically can change the scenario so that I do have to die, keeping going on doing the same routine I live by everyday, continue to see women, joke with friends, get on stage and write a screenplay, countlessly and endlessly.
But there’s a flicker, a memory, that rebounds back into view…that this is finite. When this is over, there’s no more of me. My own consciousness will cease to function, and the limbo we…
…well, I’ve been to write something other than exist, or feel or experience, but I soon realised we have nothing to explain that state which is no state at all, that nothingness which is nothing at all.
But through seeing my dad, observing how he reacts to all of that fear, they’ve said in ages old that when “a man stares at Death and gets to know his face, he gets to know that face a little better,” and I hope he has that, that one triumphant grasp at respect he worked hard for and only somewhat retrieved. By showing me he accepts the danger that looms, forgets it’s ever there, and sits down to watch old Wrestling movies with me, I feel immense comfort knowing he’s still trying hard to be the man I once knew growing up. Not the man before with his many faults, the man that brought ME up that I know.
A man that held his tongue up over his front teeth while disciplining me as a way of scaring me.
A man that drove me to primary school after we’d opened the corner shop, cutting up the newspapers and stacking the fresh bread.
A man who taught me how to ride a bicycle.
So I sit here, writing this piece, letting you know that he taught me to do what you need to do, whatever you have to do, to be a man, not necessarily a good man, but a man. And never go out of this world without leaving a mark, like he’d never done. And so I do; each performer, writer, artist and producer all had deadlines. I’ve got my very own, and something will be done that will dazzle many people’s minds…before my own candle’s snuffed out.
And if I fail that, in the “immortal” words of the late Llyold Bridges from Hot Shots:

 

 

Please Like Me – Comedians should date more.

in Comedy by
please like me

Comedy is like dating.

At first, it’s awkward, then a little familiar, but if you don’t keep a close eye on it, it can tell you to move out and warn you never to try and contact it via its mother.
And like the incongruent facade of everyday courting, comedy is very match a game of cat-mouse-promoter. Can you impress a crowd of people immediately, can you keep the crowd interested, can you give them your number and they’ll call you back three days later asking when the next gig  is?
Uggh. Bluggh.
I hate dating. I form relationships with people I can relate to, but if I can’t “get” someone the first time I might as well try to wrangle emotion from a cooking pot in Brazil.
So why can’t we skip to the relationship part?
You know you’re in a relationship when you can make that transition of starting your day with someone by saying, “Good day, how do you do?”, and move on to the best of speeches first thing in the morning, the eloquent yet subtle threesome-hinting, “Hey, sexy, when’s your mom coming over? She could bake a cake for us, y’know? Make the place smell nice, eh?”
When a new comedian struts onto the stage, nobody knows him and no one cares. They have no reason to, and for that 5 minutes he’s on stage, he needs to give the entire audience that beautiful emotional connection we all suffer from similarly in personal relationships… to make an entire crowd give a f*** and, for what it’s worth that evening, laugh like crack-addicted hyenas.
That’s a great start to a funky courtship.
We feel it when we get off-stage and audience members slap us on the shoulder or shake our hand afterwards. It’s an AMAZING feeling once we’ve performed a killer set, having Nancy who lives 100 kilometres away, attended the show by happenstance and approach me afterwards with the words…
“I wish you were my boyfriend.”
Or something.
But, for the many and the not too few, just being likeable is our biggest hurdle we first have to overcome. Just like Wayne Rooney and his ugly face.
To explain, I bemoan this Atlas-style weight on my own persona yet love the self-imposed social exile, but  I do enjoy the company of people so long as I relate to them, and therein lies my own natural flaw. If I can’t relate to everybody, everybody can’t relate to me, and so on.
And therein lies the difference between success and obscurity.
To the average I’m-not-doing-this-to-be-famous comedian who is only doing this “for a laugh”, he must be ticking all the box on the application form they handed to him at comedy school:
“You don’t know how to speak to people.” Tick.
“You’re never going to open up your vulnerability to everybody.” Tick.
“You won’t bother to search within yourself for the answers.” Tick.
“Congratulations, you’re a mediocre comedian. Please agree.” Tick.
And it’s a easy trap to fall in.
So back to the golden cow of an analogy I began with: what makes look like you’re good in the sack to one lady, a sack of opportunity to a promoter, and a laughable sack of amaze-balls to a throng of people seeking a new hero? Your eyes, nose, mouth? Torso, legs, arms? Your speech, your laugh, your witticisms and banter? Do you feel confident, or are you playing the subdued type? Is it tumultuous even for you to flourish as an excitable human being in the notion that people might be put off with your energy, or do you feel they’ll accept you as a tiny footnote in their personal history?
With all the rules we follow to learn how to make a night special, winning the popularity contest is just as important as being funny. But you don’t really have to bulk up and perform cosmetic surgery with cellotape on your nose to straighten it up. You just need a SELLING POINT, that one beautiful feature that will get the crowds coming to the show to watch you make a mockery of the English language and teaching dumb people dumber things.
And it’s the same with the opposite sex (or same sex, I can’t keep up). They need to know what makes you YOU.
Don’t try and mimic the same that walk around meandering through life with half-eaten prepositions and constant of the word, “umm”, find the true you, feel naked, stand up, be counted, and then throw away the box with the ballots in. Your uniqueness stands you above what the others make you. “Oh look, he’s another comedian.”
Yes but NEVER! You’re a f***ing FUNNY comedian with something unique with which to make people laugh!
FINDING YOUR HOLY GRAIL
Seth Godin put it straight in his “Ideavirus” booklet he gave away on his website (in an interview, “At first it hit 3000 downloads, which isn’t a lot.” – shuddup). It’s selling your idea of yourself to the crowd in order for it to spread around until everyone want to knows about it. Kunt and the Gang is a prime example.

This man fills a very unique niche, if you ever get a chance to see him live. He stands up on stage, wearing a tracksuit and a ridiculous wig, has a gold tooth, bit of a geezer, plays karaoke-style background music and sings atrociously about private parts and masturbation. I like to call his work “clunge comedy”. It’s Bernard Manning for sex with shitty puppets.
And the bugger sells out rooms each and every time.
Kunt himself is a decent bloke but still a dirty git, he’s just found it ridiculously easier being himself and playing to the narcissism and backward behaviour of the crowd who feel too spoonfed by the media in terms of “what’s appropriate” and are shouting internal, “Even liberalism can get dull once in a while, you know!”
If there’s something missing from your character that you feel, should you have the courage to dig it out from deep within that dark mire of a soul that festers under the ambiguity of your existence, it’s time to stand back, look at yourself whenever you’re up there wasting people’s time and ask yourself:
“Who the hell am I?
‘Cos I tell you, if you’re going to continue down this path selling yourself short trying to woo every Martha and Stacy who walks over you like a beige coat with spare change in a pocket with a hole it, you’re going to end up what I fear to become…
…the one that settles for the ugly one.

Post Holiday Blues – What I’m thinking when I’m at home eating chicken

in Life by
post holiday blues

So I’m living the post holiday blues, and when your birthday’s in the middle of the year, like mine, you tend to see every milestone as a bout of renewal. 6 months down the line from the anniversary of your birth, you share in the same period of coming together with family and friends that everyone mills around on, like flies on a cake.
A rather LARGE cake.

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Nelson, why don’t you blog more??

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blog more

I got asked why I don’t blog more. Well…

  1. I’m working in a job that requires my fullest attention. They need me focused and enthralled on their product, ensuring that the quality is set to the highest standard and we ship to our clients with no faults whatsoever.
  2. I live with a fun and amazing person who takes up all my focus as she fulfills my day ever waking minute I’m with her.
  3. I’ve been away from family for so long that I take time out from everything else to see them, be with them, annoy them and be annoyed by them.
  4. I drive to work, never take public transport, although it will happen very soon that I shall, but for now I keep my mind in my head, never communicating these wonderful thoughts that run through like relay athletes passing one note to the next in a classroom full of ADHD pupils.
  5. My g/f’s cat has given birth to 4 kittens and I have designated the runt, Apocalypse, as the sole survivor past the weaning process before we send off the other three to the Vet to be used as carpets or glue.
Or…
  1. I’m f***ing lazy.

Sailing means you have to ride the waves…

in Comedy by
ride the waves

Sailing means you have to ride the waves and, for some incomprehensible reason that fails me even to this day, we as human metamorphosise our expectations of achieving emotional bliss by creating the same duality, envisioning our meager and short little existences as ships sailing into the horizon, sometimes calm and sometimes stormy.

But from what I’ve read, most ships had scurvy…and seamen.

And this blog suffers from the stormy times. I tend to write positively when things are going my way, but in reality it’s more when I think clearer about…stuff.
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Savvy Granny – How my mom knows more than I do

in Life by
savvy granny

While I was away in London, my mother grew up and became a savvy granny.

She’s a 71 year-old Margaret Thatcher matriarch of the Portuguese community within Cape Town’s Northern Suburbs, with fellow residents from as far afield as Paarl travelling down to get their age-old sequin dresses hemmed and stitched by her soft and wrinkled yet experienced hands. She doesn’t quite skateboard down steep hills or listen to thrash metal locked away in her bedroom but, like a teenager squabbling to her parents for the next Nokia, she seeks out new experiences with youthful aplomb.
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On a dark and stormy night… (a writing exercise)

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going online mastrubation
In most occasions, I tend to try and write specifically about a subject, but on this occasion I don’t have one…yet, as I just described to my sister-in-law, I do enjoy using the first line, “On a dark and stormy night…” to meander off into subsequent variations of the theme before reaching the point, in order to jump-start the creative process.

And here’s the result.

On a dark and stormy night…

…well, a slightly dark and stormy night, really. In July in the southern hemisphere. And but slightly, I really mean sort-of dusky with a small chance of drizzle.

And when I mean by stormy, really some drizzle with the possibility that your eyes will seem accustomed to the African sun after a few months of the blanket of clouds hanging overcast like a comfort pillow thrown over by an over-protective mother that still loves you despite yelling you a few hours before for leaving your bike out in the yard.

And when I mean drizzle at dusk, I really mean an occasional smattering of one or two droplets descending upon the earth like a few Spartans entering a battle…without their mates, resulting in totally defeat by the Persian horde, that sort of smattering.

And dusk is such a relative term. I would say about 9am, the sun easily penetrating the window like a geriatric peeping Tom with a pace-maker that ticks away like the timepiece in the crocodile that ate Captain Hook’s hand from Peter Pan, the old badger ruffling through the plants trying to find a good view up your nose as your bed faces feet first towards the window.

So anyway, on a slightly morning-ish time of the day with a slight smattering of droplets…I discovered you can get Jews on a train far more easily if you charged them half.

The End.

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