The seven deadly sins have featured in numerous artworks and entertainment pieces. For the last full week of August, Alexander Bar is playing host to a particularly unique interpretation of them, namely the play We Didn’t Come to Hell for the Croissants: Seven Deadly New Stories for Consenting Adults (Croissants).
Directed by Rhodes graduate Lindiwe Matshikiza, Croissants utilises a Japanese form of storytelling called kamishibai, which involves a set of illustrated boards used as pictorial aids to the story being told.
Each story is by a different South African writer, and incorporates into its narrative a focus on one (or more) of the seven deadly sins. The drawings are by various South African illustrators.
The show is narrated to the audience by Jemma Kahn, known for The Epicene Butcher, a kamishibai-inspired collection of stories to which Croissants is the sequel. Her eccentric sidekick, played by Roberto Pombo, provides sound, musical accompaniment, and extra hilarity.
Croissants is mostly outrageous, bookended by a striptease (during which Pombo puts a whole stocking his mouth) and a dance by both performers wearing nipple tassels. This last feature aptly follows the sexually charged final story, The Spaghetti of the Whores, which incorporates the sins of gluttony and lust.
This is not to say, however, that this 70-minute play is without its serious side. The darkest and bleakest of the tales is The Tragedians, whose first half constitutes a letter written by a prisoner to the wife and mother of his murder victims. The second half will shock the audience into a state of numbness.
While the other stories are more lighthearted, they do touch on morbid themes and serious issues. The Slothful Tale of Erasmus Blank is an indictment of modern-day laziness and how it is worsened by media and new technology. Pride, the shortest story, unspoken and told only with the illustrations, looks at the various connotations of its titular theme.
The three remaining stories are effective in displaying Kahn’s versatility as a performer. She sings as an avaricious upper-class cat to the tune of an accordion; puts on a perfect German accent while speaking as a university intellectual who lusts after a Nigerian student called Ntombikayise; and has the audience in hysterics as a bombastic motivational speaker in the story Enemies and How to Love Them.
Pombo is also highly amusing, and not at all afraid to be inappropriate, as I found out when he danced both provocatively and scantily clad right in front of me at one point. His antics do, however, create a bit of a distraction, and it becomes difficult to pay attention to both performers at the same time.
Nevertheless, the show is must-see for those who love subversion, naughtiness, quick socio-political commentary, and storytelling in various forms.
Then Wednesday 24 August at 7.00 pm (to Sunday 27th August at 9.00 pm)
Where Alexander Bar, 76 Strand Street, CBD
Cost R140 at the door, R120 online
Contact + 27 21 300 1088, [email protected], www.alexanderbar.co.za
Photography courtesy Alexander Bar, Café and Theatre