Fourie’s Mouthpiece For The Curious

Two transvestites, a stripper and a urologist’s secretary were interviewed live on stage last week. Michael Dresden was there

CHARLES J FOURIE, the award-winning Afrikaans fringe-close-to-centre playwright and sometime director, is the ringleader of an extraordinary new series of shows at Cape Town’s Long Street Theatre. The format is a live interview, on stage, and the first edition of the series — named Mouthpiece — was riveting. Until it happened, no one knew what to expect.

Fourie comes on stage as a mild, humble rather nervous talk show host — much like the ones on TV but with less bullshit. He says he has four guests; we are welcome to ask them questions. There is no light to tell us when to clap.

First up is a urologist’s secretary. Fourie’s first question is: “What, as a matter of fact is a urologist … um … exactly?” (Someone who deals with men’s urinary-reproductive tracts.) From that point on, the questions get more and more frank. “How exactly do you feel for a swollen prostate gland? … Could we do it at home? … What’s it like to be a secretary?”

To each of his guests Fourie puts the same question: “What do you want to do with your life? Is this it?” The secretary answers openly, frankly. The audience asks questions. Everybody starts to relax. The experiment is working.

After a two-minute interval a light flashes on the stage. A stripper comes on and proceeds to take it all off. It’s just like Sardi’s, only it’s not a bunch of beery, lusty men perving at her. This is a theatre audience, furiously wondering what to make of it all. How should one respond? Whistle and call “Get it off!” — or should one chuckle at the irony of the all-too-obvious tease?

When she’s naked and has smeared shaving cream all over her breasts, the music stops and the stripper turns to the audience and says “Thank you” in a polite little voice. A minute later she’s seated on the couch with a glass of whisky and a microphone. Wearing a red bathrobe, she explains how her career all started with a dare.

“How do you decide which member of the audience to take on to stage? … How do you control him? … Do you ever get horny when you dance? … What do you think of men? … Do you ever do anything else?”

By this time everybody wants to ask a question. There is a sense that the theatre is a hallowed space — anyone can admit to anything, even ignorance, without any self-consciousness. There is no tittering, but laughter abounds.

Round three comprises a pair of transvestite prostitutes. One is naked and proceeds to dress, transforming himself/herself from a naked man into a woman. “That’s called tucking,” explains the other as he/she grips his/her penis and tucks it neatly between his/her buttocks.

Fourie can hardly get a word in edgewise. The question-and-answer has turned into a dialogue between the audience and the whores. “How could it feel real?” “You want to feel it, luvvie?” she challenges. “Come up here.” A man in the audience gets up on stage and puts his hand up her skirt. “See?” “Ja,” he says, “it feels very realistic.” Things are getting seriously liberated.

But you don’t get a sense that it is going too far, because everything that’s happening is born of genuine, unashamed curiosity.

Fourie puts his question to the more reserved of the two prostitutes: “Is this it? Is this your life’s ambition?” She answers quietly that her ambition is something between herself and God. She has been whoring as a woman for 16 years — since she was 15. Her family accept her for what she is. That’s enough for her. It’s enough for all of us. There is a stunned, theatrical silence.

Fourie brings the show to a close. In two weeks’ time he will be interviewing a gang from Mannenburg, he says. He believes they’ve been involved in a lot of very interesting crimes.

Charles Fourie’s live talk shows take place every second Sunday at the Long Street Theatre. Performances begin at 8pm

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