BWW Reviews: Rabinowitz Offers an Enjoyable Night Out in STAND UP at the Baxter
Nik Rabinowitz is back on stage at the Baxter theatre with STAND UP, a show that aims to take 'the Pistorius out of everything' that is going on in South Africa at the current time. Performed against a backdrop of huge red letters that spell out "uNIK", Rabinowitz takes a look at everything from public figures like Patricia de Lille to the wonders of poësie (Afrikaans poetry in genteel terms, but quite something else for the dirty-minded). At its best, STAND UP is very entertaining stand-up comedy. However, there are times where the pace of the show lags a little, although these moments certainly might work itself out during the run.
Rabinowitz's opening act is Kagiso "KG" Mokgadi, an up-and-coming comic whose comedy focuses on social satire with a familial slant. He has an endearing stage persona, but he does not command the stage with the same authority that Rabinowitz does. What works best about his KG's act is that he knows what he is about - many of his jokes deal with the pressures of going to school in post-apartheid South Africa, with a sangoma dad along for the ride - and he knows how to work those topics for maximum effect in his short set, which takes up approximately the first 15-20 minutes of the night.
The next hour or so features Rabinowitz, dropping jokes and telling stories that cover the socio-political situation in South Africa (Nkandla, Lindiwe Mazibuko, Jacob Zuma and so on), popular culture (in a hilarious skit surrounding BOER SOEK 'N VROU) and domestic life (including his experiences while building his house and babysitting his own children). Threaded through the evening are some classic impersonations, during which Rabinowitz makes a travesty of his subjects to point out their quirks and foibles. These parodies of our most famous public figures comprise some of the highlights of STAND UP.
Rabinowitz is very funny most of the time, particularly when he is working the crowd. He has an instantly likeable comic persona and even manages to ingratiate himself with those few individuals in the audience he picks on during the performance. In fact, at one point in the show, Rabinowitz was so wrapped up in what he was doing with the audience members in the front row that I wondered whether he had forgotten about the rest of us.
In fairness, there could be many reasons for this. The demographic mix of the crowd that surrounded me responded less well to sections of the show in which Rabinowitz pushed the envelope when it came to vulgarity, for example. And although it seems like an evening of comedy is a good tonic for low spirits, lifting the heavy hearts of a nation mourning the loss of Madiba is a big "ask". Even so, I think it is worth interrogating whether STAND UP itself was as tight a show as it should have been. The strength of a show - especially in this genre, where things are fairly malleable - is not always about how much you can squeeze in, but in knowing what to leave out.
STAND UP is the kind of no-frills comedy show that makes for an enjoyable night out for a group of friends. There is a PG16 age restriction, so make sure you plan for a babysitter, and go along prepared for what Rabinowitz describes on his Facebook page as 'an unprecedented level of vulgarity'. It may not be the best night you will have at the theatre over the 2013 festive season, but it will still be a good one.
STAND UP is running until 11 January at the Baxter Concert Hall. Performances take place on Mondays to Fridays at 8.30pm and on Saturdays at 9pm, including Christmas Eve and on Boxing Day. Tickets cost from R110 to R150. A special New Year's Eve performance will take place at 10pm, with tickets costing R210 per person. All bookings are through Computicket or 0861 915 8000.