Topsy Turvy is tonic for the soulPeter Feldman
Peter Feldman: Jonathan Roxmouth’s comic onslaught, Topsy Turvy, is a healthy dose of uplifting good cheer at a time with so much doom and gloom around.
Under the deft direction of the award-winning Alan Swerdlow, whose input on matters of Gilbert and Sullivan is incalculable, the production is a laugh-a-minute exercise in deconstructing Gilbert and Sullivan.
In essence, the songs and the banter remain within the realms of Gilbert and Sullivan’s musical world, but the show is infused with so many clever local references and cynical asides that it takes on a life of its own.
The tall, imposing Roxmouth, whose diverse body of work will be familiar to many theatre-goers, once again shows his consummate skills as a performer, immersing himself in a gallery of ridiculous characters who take form before our very eyes.
He commands the stage with innate professionalism, reading his audience like a book. A good part of his show relies on audience participation and this makes for moments of hilarious fun.
The comic songs and verse of the famous duo get a complete make-over here. Classics such as “The Mikado,” “The Pirates of Penzance,” and “HMS Pinafore” are given fresh meaning in the accomplished hands of Roxmouth who provides tart new patter to old routines.
The show is divided into distinctive segments with titles such as Songs of Introduction, Songs of Tenderness and Patter Songs of Self Promotion, which allows this performer to attack his material with rare glee. One of the funniest moments occurs when Roxmouth conducts a hidden orchestra with the flourish of a veteran.
One can learn, too, to write one’s own Gilbertian Operetta, in DIY fashion, and watch three volunteers from the audience transformed into policemen and giving full voice.
Gilbert and Sullivan’s work satirised the social norms of the time and “Topsy Turvy” energetically mirrors the style, attitude and mannerisms of this glorious period in English musical theatre.
It’s one man, more than 15 characters and eight operettas all lovingly squeezed into almost two hours of comic joviality. It’s a tonic for the soul!
“Topsy Turvy” is on at The Studio, Pieter Toerien’s Theatre, Montecasino, until August 5.
Feldman has been a journalist and arts critic for over 45 years and served on The Star in various capacities for 35 years, ending up as a specialist writer on films, music and theatre. During that time he travelled extensively on assignments and interviewed many international film and pop stars, both in South Africa and overseas. He also covered some of South Africa's biggest film and musical events. He is active in the freelance field and his work over the past 12 years has appeared in a variety of South African newspapers and magazines. He writes regularly for Artslink.co.za, The Citizen, South African Jewish Report, The Sunday Independent and is a contributor to "Eat Out" Magazine. He also contributes movie reviews on Mondays to The Gordon Hoffman Easy Morning Show on 1485 Radio Today (www.1485.org.za) and has worked on TV in his specialist capacity. Over the years Feldman has been the recipient of several awards for his contribution to music journalism and the SA record industry. He wrote lyrics for some top artists, including Sipho Mabuse, and had a hit disco single, "Video Games," which was released in 1988. After retiring from The Star in April, 1999, Feldman joined the PR and events management company, Dlamini Weil Communications, where he currently works as an entertainment and media consultant.
Montecasino Complex, Fourways Johannesburg Gauteng South Africa