ArtSpoken & Reviews

Sometimes you need friends like this

Jennifer de Klerk
09/17/2016 10:53:53

Jennifer de Klerk: My Fat Friend with its witty repartee and universal theme – right or wrong, who hasn’t tried to smarten up for a suitor? -  is always a favourite.

Most of us, though, can’t rise to the snappy remarks and comebacks of the totally irritating and mosquito-sharp Henry. He doesn’t miss a single opportunity to attack with everything from a pin to a battle axe.

This marvelous character conjured up by playwright Charles Lawrence can only be forgiven (and enjoyed) because he is so transparent and completely unrepentant.

Here Henry is in the competent hands of Tobie Cronje, a highly seasoned and spiced performer who could probably do the role in his sleep – he recently played it in the Afrikaans Vettie Vettie.

He excels in taking his characterization – this case extremely and deliberately over-camp – to the edge, but not quite over, making the most of his deceptively shocked and hurt facial expressions.

But it is Jeremy Richards as the young Scot James Anderson who picks up the loudest laugh when he shoots out, with perfect timing, just the right barb to pierce Henry’s bubble.

This characterization is masterful, complete with convincing Scottish accent, from the bemused youngster of the first scenes, open-mouthed at the insults flying past him, ducking nimbly into the kitchen or bookshop to escape the war, to the furious drunken rant when the worm finally turns.
He also does a rather good mime.

In previous productions of My Fat Friend I have seen, James Anderson was merely a foil for Henry. Richard tackles his supremacy, making a worthy friend and foe.

Charlie Bouguenon is the suitor Tom. He only pops in at the beginning and end, but takes his share of laughs, making obvious a rather shy attraction at the beginning and dawning horror at the end (ignore the spoiler).

Which brings us to Michelle Botha as the extremely large lady of the first scenes, to the considerably smaller one of the later ones – it’s a great fat suit. She certainly has her moments, but her performance is loose compared to the control of the other two, where every movement is timed and calculated.

Both Tobie and Michelle managed to convey convincingly, even from the beginning, the obvious affection and friendship that underlies the insults.

To make the most of this rapid-fire play the pace has to be snappy. On media night this one felt a little under-rehearsed with both Tobie and Michelle stumbling at times and swallowing the punchline. The run has only just started so no doubt the problem will fix itself.

For a good night out with plenty of laughter, this is fun, although it might make you feel guilty enough to miss dessert if you dine out afterwards. And leave the chocolates at home.

My Fat Friend, directed by Andre Odendaal for Pieter Toerien and Rosie Smit in at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre until October 2.

Jennifer de Klerk is editor of
Related Venue:
Montecasino Complex, Fourways Johannesburg Gauteng South Africa