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WHO IS THIS FREDDY, WHAT THE *FK IS HE ?


Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Saturday, 14 July 2018 00:10


 

Freddy first burst on the theatre scene a few years back. That the play was not the thing was clear from the first expletive. But there was more potential in this explosive art form than many staid productions plodding across Colombo stages. There was fun, puns, takes on people and their sundry politics that bordered on the blasphemous. PG rated it was not. However scurrilous the barbs, it was still not quite mainstream and more than one toffee-nosed thespian turned up their petty probosces at it.

Therefore Feroze Kamardeen (FK) – actor and director, or actor-director; also consummate marketer – got down to brass tacks. He dispensed with the drama and focused exclusively on stand-up. Freddy went from being a mysterious person Missing In Action throughout a series of trite farces to a very funny figure (still MIA) for whom no cow – political, social, cultural, religious – was sacred. It was a formula that worked as well for the comedians as much as the capital’s consumers of humour with a point: in fact, a subversive agenda.

But it was arguably at Freddy & Co.’s latest outing that stand-up as a genre began to show its true colours. And the official residence of numerous heads of state was both an interesting as well as an iconic venue to showcase the foibles of our democratically-republican elected governors – or dregs. Here in the hallowed precincts (“Temple ****ing Trees!” as the irrepressible Gehan Blok hallooed in opening his bawdy segment) Freddy came into his own. If not as Theatre, at least Trouble, for the establishment’s pillars.

Strengths 

A vision of stand-up as a way to critically engage with the issues of the day. A mission to disturb the comfortable so that the disturbed may be comforted one day. A passion to produce pointed pieces that provoke, placate, persuade. 

One creative writer with a social conscience. Five clever comedians with a courageous approach to going off mainstream. 

Weaknesses 

A penchant for picking the easy meat – e.g. snide references to a home video by a popular sports personality of yesteryear, sarcastic references to past despots, etc. Which are bound to get a laugh each time these bricks are dropped. But, do they serve a larger purpose? (If not, use them sparingly, please!) 

A predilection to play diplomatically to the powers that be while hammering those out of favour over the head with a sledgehammer – viz. yes, it’s Temple Trees: we know; but “‘Hon.’ RW?” Pardon me, your slip is showing – or your show is slipping!

Opportunities 

To champion good causes while castigating the bad and the ugly. To be a voice for the voiceless. To be a sort of pseudo-play in which to catch the conscience of the king… or the queen – if you know what and/or whom I mean…

While one was glad that Good Governance got its much deserved comeuppance in a rib-ticklingly creative way, guilty governors got off the hook by dint of Freddy’s focus being on the prez and the ex-prez. So that the premier (seated there, stonily) was let down gently with a few kinder pokes – an opportunity lost? 

Threats 

That the performers could get carried away by their panache and fail to be kind to the ostensibly marginalised. For example, there were too many mean and nasty jokes at the expense of schools that are not exactly de rigueur in hoity-toity circles.  True, the hoi polloi lapped it up as if there was no tomorrow after this one-night-stand. But, those who belong to the institutions traduced have to look at themselves in the mirror in the morning. And, there’s no comfort of strangers for some of those folks hanged, drawn and quartered mercilessly by many manic and meaningless underhand cuts and thrusts. 

Élan, yes! Éclat, yes! Esprit de corps? No, not for the underdog school and our musketeers’ enemies on social media. Not cricket, gents?

With that said, these stalwarts did a sterling job of tickling ribs and prodding the concupiscence – er, conscience. 

The stand-ups

IFAZ: exposing the petty foibles of the community to which he belongs. Despite some nervousness and one or two fluffs, here’s a performer who can stand and deliver with the best of them.

ADIN: reminding the privileged and triumphalist of past politically driven excesses, with just the right patina of pathos. Light, but with only the requisite gloss of darkness.

DAMINDA: puncturing the pathetic pretentiousness of the capital city’s denizens while highlighting the plight of less fortunate demographics elsewhere. By far the most empathetic player, he was the very consummate buffoon with a shade of native brilliance to send up Colombo flops, flubs, failures and fiascos without alerting the audience too much to the fact that they were laughing hysterically at themselves! 

DINO: making us mindful of many things from political machinations and the use of language in the media to the folly of the many times and customs we hold dear. O dear! O tempora! O mores! A more sophisticated take on Sri Lankan silliness and a suitable foil for the foulmouthed blockhead (I mean it in the nicest possible way) who followed.

GEHAN: taking the Mickey out of the sentimentality we still attach to our alma maters – for if there’s one thing sure to rile up the gentry more than politics, it’s casting aspersions at the old boy/girl network or old school tie. Even if I cringe every time this guy says “faluda!” (insert expletive), there’s no denying that he’s the dynamite which makes Freddy explode in an orgy where no one’s left standing after the final cracker goes off! 

Stand up

It takes courage to crack a joke in public. To do it in front of 2,635 folks including the premier, several ministers, the crème de la crème of café society and the cocktail circuit, and several hundred black-clad security in dark glasses giving performers and audience alike dark looks takes testicular fortitude tantamount to foolhardiness.

#Hats off, FK & Co!

Speak up

The excessiveness of the more outrageous jokes and jibes concealed the production’s purpose. To puncture Sri Lankan society’s egregiousness in matters we don’t mind much, enough, or at all. There were scathing critiques of political charlatanry, socio-cultural hypocrisy, and religious apathy. That the audience was quiet at times in-between the raucous laughter revealed that the satire had hit home. The joke was on us. The fault lay not in the stars, but in ourselves. There was no point pretending, and perhaps some soul-searching to be done before attempting to address and redress some outstanding issues in which we were all complicit. 

#Gloves off, guys? 

Shut up

Sorry to say that too much of a good thing is good for nothing. Some members of the audience were seen fidgeting indecisively as the clock ticked past the appointed hour of closure (2200hrs). But there was no sign of the torrent dwindling down to a trickle. And sadly they had to go get dinner, attend to kids, or get some action at that party; whatever.

Lay off the late night endings, *FK. Some of us have to *FK off to other parts of our life… in time…

Plaudit

With that said: take a bow, Freddy & Co., for your courage in bearding the lion (or sleeping pussycat) in his/its own den! The critique of ‘Good Governance’ and other non-starter/non-performers in Sri Lanka’s political pantheon came in for some short shrift. It ranged from none too subtle references to voters being shafted; through more nuanced digs at the thrones, powers, and dominions; to downright insult at failed statesmanship. (Don’t forget, there was a Grand Panjandrum in the audience – no less than the PM himself: who, to his credit, sat down and took the stand-up and still went home smiling; or something.) 

Personal peeve

Pity that the former regime and the incumbent president took the heavy flak. It left some with the impression that Freddy had pulled his punches as a sop to Cerberus. But on closer inspection of the text – especially the lyrics of the songs that accompanied each performer – more discerning observers would note a broader message with an even-handed knock: “You steal from me / when you rob my country / A thief is a thief… / we don’t care which party!” 

The play is the thing – or so FK probably thought – in which to prick the conscience of the king… One can only hope that this very pointed in parts piece of stand-up won’t be a playoff to crown the complacence of the prick.  

 

 

 

 
 

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