Electric Juju (programme image)
Having a real good laugh at fest is highly sought after. Hence the enormous comedy section. Hence why many might make their way to any Rob van Vuuren show. It’s guaranteed, no?
Confession, I haven’t watched Rob van Vuuren on stage for several years. Does that make me a bad festino? Ag, you know mos, I usually veer from the predictable hits. Yet the chance to watch a revived Electric Juju was a no brainer – I remember the fuss around it a decade or so ago but never got to it.
Anyhow, I wasn’t expecting to laugh. But hell, did I. Ha! First real lols of my fest (in a show). But not at Rob van Vuuren ‘being funny’. Look, some of the younger lot left looking like they’d not followed it all – perhaps they expected more of what Rob is synonymous with – stand up comedy. The older couple behind me said afterwards it wasn’t what they were expecting but were so glad they’d come.
Oh, we laughed. We laughed at the craziness, at the slick script, at Rob’s liquid smooth and lightening fast transformations into a bevy of characters. Electric Juju was a treat, a pleasure, a reminder of why I love theatrical performance.
Gosh, he’s a natural. Gosh, he’s skilful. Gosh, he truly knows his craft. Gushing over.
With no more props than a big fat lump of a big fat junk pile, a crow puppet or two, and some miniature cut-outs, he single-handedly becomes a father, a son, 2 assassins, a little girl, a classroom full of naughty kids and their teacher, a fantastic madman, the villagers in a marketplace… do we need more examples?
Most would have to be on coke to be as fast as Rob is in the classroom scene. If I was that teacher I’d have to be on opioids to survive. David! What a trouble-causing bully little shit. Another favourite moment was the ‘bodiless head’ scene. The strangeness of his characters is testament to his creativity. But balancing out all the kooky characters is our little accidental heroine Susan, who as only a child can do likes to point out the truth of matters – like telling the bodiless head that she can see his legs.
Electric Juju is a lovely return to the basics, where on a plain and empty stage the miming, clowning body becomes the only tool necessary to make magic. With the crispest of movements, Rob creates for our imaginations the assassin’s sword, the winding wheel of an ancient elevator platform, the weight of the enormous heart, the burden of straining at the ropes which hold that heart from falling and sinking.
Step back for a moment to that old pile of junk. Well, that’s what it appears at first glance. Then we discover it is a giant’s heart… then it transforms to serve the story – it becomes the giant’s skull on its side, it becomes a steep rockface hit by crashing waves, it becomes the lush hillside which Susan and the old man traverse together.
See the imagery and metaphors emerging?
Courage and friendship take front seat in this adventure story. Our old man says it best, “what use is a heart if it has no feelings?!” Is the heart a giant’s heart, or is it our brave old man who has a giant heart?
Rob van Vuuren’s last festival? Most don’t believe it. Surely he’ll be back in some role – perhaps not on stage. This fest has a way of dragging even the most reluctant back into the maelstrom. If bringing back Electric Juju with his unique performance excellence can be considered a swansong nod to the theatre he’s brought us over the years… he’s shifting gears in style.
Electric Juju is described as a tour de force. Well, it’s true. Just in case he’s not bluffing, go.
Electric Juju is on today 03 July at 17.00, and tomorrow 04 July at 19.00. For more details and bookings, follow this link: Electric Juju
Directors: Helen Iskander and James Cuningham
Written & performed by: Rob van Vuuren
Original design: Lisa Younger