Theatre Review: Die Avonture Van Bal-Oog En Brommel: Moord In Ixiastraat

By: Mandy J Watson
Posted: 31 May 2018
Category: Review Comments View Comments


A murder may have been committed in Ixia Street. Teenagers Bal-Oog and Brommel are on the case to solve the mystery in a comedic theatrical adaptation of an Afrikaans graphic novel that was published last year.

Die Avonture Van Bal-Oog & Brommel: Moord In Ixiastraat, an Afrikaans graphic novel by Sjaka S Septembir, Swart Streep, and Willem Samuel that was launched last year, has been adapted by Septembir into a stage production that has been touring arts festivals and theatres.

It stars De Klerk Oelofse and Richard September with Gertjie Besselsen providing the soundtrack (plus a few surprise moments on stage), as he did last week in Skop!, which also featured Septembir.

Theatre Review: Die Avonture Van Bal-Oog En Brommel: Moord In Ixiastraat
Above: Richard September, Gertjie Besselsen, and De Klerk Oelofse perform in Die Avonture Van Bal-Oog En Brommel: Moord In Ixiastraat earlier this week at Alexander Upstairs at the Alexander Bar in Cape Town.
The story revolves around two Grade 10 slackers, Bal-Oog and Brommel, who hang out in their home base (Bal-Oog's mother's place) in the apartment block Milpark Heights in Ixia Street, Milnerton. They witness shenanigans going on in the neighbourhood, which lead them to suspect that a murder has been committed so they decide to investigate. Along the way a growing group of oddball supporting characters and protagonists joins the cast.

Oelofse and September, who play almost all the characters in the story, perform within a demarcated space on the stage using comedic mime and clowning principles enhanced with dialogue and narration. There are no props, there are no costumes, there's no scenery - the entire play is created through the physical performances of the actors, with the help of two other key aspects: Besselsen's sound and music, as well as the lighting, which is directly inspired by artist Swart Streep's beautiful mood colouring in the graphic novel.

Theatre Review: Die Avonture Van Bal-Oog En Brommel: Moord In Ixiastraat
Above: At FanCon Cape Town Comic Con in April this year Sjaka S Septembir and Richard September were on a panel that discussed the adaptation of the graphic novel Die Avonture Van Bal-Oog & Brommel: Moord In Ixiastraat into a play. On the right De Klerk Oelofse and Richard September are describing the layout of the neighbourhood depicted in the panel on the left that comes from the graphic novel, which was drawn by Willem Samuel and coloured by Swart Streep. A combination of the actor's clothing, their movements, and the lighting recreate the scene.
The result is incredible and the fact that it is in Afrikaans isn't at all a barrier for non-first-language speakers. The performances are high intensity and physically demanding for the actors but they faithfully and accurately create the world and story depicted in the graphic novel in a very accessible way.

In some places they even enhance it, as the humour is actually better suited to a live performance than being read on a page because much of it relies on timing to bring out the best part of the moment. Humorous situations also develop as the actors have to bring forth a dozen characters, plus a variety of animals, inanimate objects, and a couple of maps, through their physical performances, in sometimes very ingenious ways.

Theatre Review: Die Avonture Van Bal-Oog En Brommel: Moord In Ixiastraat

Besselsen's comedic rock music softly underscores the scenes but the entire soundscape he creates at the same time is crucial to the success of the play as it both adds sound effects to the action and sets up audio cues, such as musical snippets, for the audience members to help them to follow which characters are on stage. The actors also do this with a shorthand of character-specific physical movements and stances that immediately tell you who they are. It's so well done that in one scene I counted eight characters (two women, five men, and a dog), with the actors flipping back and forth between various pairs as they interacted, and yet at no point was it confusing.

The pace is swift, however, which results in the play being quite demanding for the audience as well, so there is a 60-second interval during which the actors get a chance to drink some water and everyone else gets a brain break before the play dives straight into the frenetic climax of the story.

Theatre Review: Die Avonture Van Bal-Oog En Brommel: Moord In Ixiastraat

Those who have read the graphic novel may be wondering how it compares to the play since the two platforms are so disparate. The story is almost identical, although I'd argue that the play's pacing is better, and the play also fleshes out some moments in the graphic novel that seemed a little deus ex machina, such as the seemingly random appearance of the robber near the start of the story, so it actually makes for a useful, though entirely impractical, companion guide.

There's more content in the play too. Parts of the story that are merely a couple of panels in the graphic novel are fleshed out to provide depth and more comedic content, while a few small weaker or unnecessary moments have been removed. Plus, on a very practical level, some mistakes in the graphic novel, such as the apartment numbers in Milpark Heights, have also been fixed in the play.

Theatre Review: Die Avonture Van Bal-Oog En Brommel: Moord In Ixiastraat
Above: Sjaka S Septembir and Richard September discuss the adaptation of the graphic novel Die Avonture Van Bal-Oog & Brommel: Moord In Ixiastraat into a play at FanCon Cape Town Comic Con in April this year.
The play stands on its own, however, and you don't need to have read the graphic novel to enjoy it, though it's really fun to see how the team translated such a graphically visual medium into a physically expressive medium that sparks audience members' imaginations to envision the same content and thereby communicate the exact same story.

Seek it out as it appears in small theatres and at arts festivals across the country - it's definitely a play worth seeing.

Die Avonture Van Bal-Oog & Brommel: Moord In Ixiastraat: Official Site, Facebook
Die Avonture Van Bal-Oog En Brommel: Moord In Ixiastraat: Alexander Upstairs
Sjaka S Septembir: Instagram
Alexander Bar: Official Site, Facebook, Twitter

Mandy J Watson was a media guest of Alexander Upstairs. Die Avonture Van Bal-Oog En Brommel: Moord In Ixiastraat is directed by Gideon Lombard, written by Sjaka S Septembir, and stars De Klerk Oelofse and Richard September, with musical direction by Gertjie Besselsen. There are two more performances at Alexander Upstairs, on Friday night and Saturday night (1 and 2 June 2018). Both are at 21:00. Tickets are R100 online or R120 at the door.

Tags: Arts And Culture, Cape Town, Comics, FanCon Cape Town Comic Con, South African comics

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