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SCENE IT: Has She Got News For You!

Maria Kearns & James Kearns


South Africa is the home of new news newsing newsily. Good news, bad news, incomprehensible news… Too much news, if anything. And over the past 40 years, Marianne Thamm has had a front-row seat to all the most flabbergasting moments to hit the headlines.

In Round of Applause Reloaded, the veteran journalist pulls back the front page to expose an assortment of criminal misdeeds, dirty secrets, and dastardly villains stuffing Rands down their pants.

And Rands secreted in unexpected places has been the major theme in South African political reporting in recent decades. It’s a credit to the citizens of this country that we’re interested enough in reading about the minutiae of embezzlement and corruption scandals that local journalists and investigators can keep publishing their detailed analyses in book form. Throughout the show, Thamm refers to many of the volumes on display around her as she helps the audience piece together the Gupta Leaks, the end of the nuclear deal, the spy scandal, and other jaw-dropping stories.

Thamm’s expertise is underlined by this admirable referencing of her sources and the fluency and ease with which she regales the room with tales of the behind-the-scenes puzzle-building that leads to exposés and high-profile criminal investigations. The show would be engaging enough with just those ingredients at its disposal, but, thanks to Thamm’s authentic, unpretentious approach to the art of the personal anecdote, it turns out to be an exhilarating hour of storytelling.

It also helps that she’s really very funny: Come for the anecdote about Helen Zille’s rodent admirer; stay for Thamm’s impression of president Ramaphosa bargaining with a pot-plant-based listening device apparently connected directly to Arthur Fraser’s ear.

If you want an expert with a sense of humour to explain to you how much money the Guptas actually stole, why it’s important to keep stupid people who commit accidental leaks in your prayers, and why Orania has unexpectedly great Wi-Fi and efficient tree surgeons, get your tickets immediately. If you don’t want those things, get your tickets anyway: You’re guaranteed to leave the theatre with an expanded understanding of where our country is and where it’s been recently—and perhaps even with a renewed sense of optimism about where we’re headed. As members of a democracy simultaneously not yet out of short trousers and, somehow, already weatherbeaten enough to have proved the strenght of its Constitution, expanding our understanding of our political landscape as we head to into our seventh general elections can only be a good idea.

And if hope isn’t your thing, there’s always that story about Helen and the mouse.

Round of Applause Reloaded is playing at the Baxter Theatre’s Studio until the 27th of April. Tickets are available through Webtickets and the Baxter Theatre’s box office.


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