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REVIEW - The Chester Missing Roadshow

"Halala!" This past Thursday I went to watch 'The Chester Missing Roadshow' at the Baxter Theatre Centre.

Truth be told, I've been a fan of Chester Missing ever since he managed to nudge his way into our lives via the satirical TV news show, 'Late Nite News with Loyiso Gola', so it goes without saying that I was super chuffed to go and see this production, headlined by my favourite puppet. There was a lot of expectation from my side, as I'm sure there was from the rest of the audience who are familiar with the satirical television character, but let me say upfront, all expectations were exceeded!

If you're unfamiliar with Chester Missing, you're missing out! He brings out the funny side in politics, is completely outspoken (with no filtration system between his thoughts and his mouth), and is a self-declared revolutionary.

It is said that behind every good puppet is a great mind and puppet-master. For George W. Bush it was Dick Cheney, for Kermit the Frog it was Jim Henson, and in Chester Missing's case, it's comedian and ventriloquist, Conrad Koch.

Conrad Koch is a former Capetonian who has a Master's degree in Social Anthropology, which I believe is the secret to his gripping comedy that South African audiences have come to love. He combines cultural insights, puppetry and hilarious commentary to create a theatrical comedy tour de force. He often ends up being the butt of quite a few of Chester's jokes.

I've heard a lot of people refer to Conrad Koch as South Africa's Jeff Dunham. I have to say that I disagree. I personally think Dunham's comedy lacks intelligence, something that Koch's does not. Conrad Koch shows that it is possible to be clever and topical, and still be ridiculously funny and have mass appeal.

If politics is not your thing and you're not politically aware, don't fear; you will still enjoy the show. Conrad Koch seems to be aware that not everybody is glued to the news 24/7, and thus explains ahead of the joke who the political figures are - and their claims to shame - so that no one is left in the dark.

While the show is named after Chester Missing, he is not the only character in this hilarious comedy production. There are two other characters that Koch pulls out of his suitcases, namely Hilary, an ostrich that is a former Vegas showgirl and celebrity expert; and Ronnie, a little green monster with an energy that you can't help but love.

Fresh off the road from a Gauteng tour, the show is opened with a short set by Conrad Koch (without a puppet), who warms up the audience and gets to know a few of them. After Koch's solo set, Chester Missing comes out of the suitcase and onto the stage, followed by Hilary and Ronnie. All acts are outstanding, each having their own personality, voice, and unique movements and features. The star of this road show however, has to be the man it's named after - Mr Chester Missing.

Between ripping-off ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe, the leader of the opposition Helen Zille, President Jacob Zuma and various other politicians, Chester Missing is quite the showman. I've seen him sing some of the ANC's recent hit singles on 'LNN', namely his take on Msholozi's "Umshini wam" and Jackson Mthembu's "Don't Buy City Press." But it would seem that Chester Missing can also bust a dance move or two, some of which he showed us in this production.

Heinrich Reisenhofer directs this comedy showpiece and does a fantastic job I might add. He's no stranger to comedy direction, being the director of the 'Joe Barber' series, and also works with the likes of Stuart Taylor and Kurt Schoonraad.

The 'Chester Missing Roadshow' is performed in the Baxter Studio theatre, which is an intimate space and lends itself nicely to a production of this type. Koch, in his direction by Reisenhofer, takes full advantage of the venue, as he and the puppets engage fully and have the audience engulfed in every moment of the show.

I have to be honest, I laughed incredibly hard throughout the production - so hard that I left with my voice a little hoarse, my cheeks rather sore, a missing button (I popped a shirt button mid-laughter) and a big smile of contentment on my face.

I would highly recommend that you book as soon as possible to watch Chester Missing, Conrad Koch, Hilary and Ronnie in 'The Chester Missing Roadshow', while it's in Cape Town at the Baxter. I guarantee it will be a great night out, filled with consistent laughter.

'The Chester Missing Roadshow' is playing at the Baxter Theatre Centre in Rondebosch, Cape Town, in the Golden Arrow Studio. Shows are Monday-Saturday until 3 August 2013 and start at 8.15pm, except for the show on Saturday, 3 August, which starts at 7pm.

Tickets for the show are R130 each, but students, senior citizens and block bookings of 10 or more get a 20% discount. Booking can be done through Computicket, except for discount bookings, which can be done by calling 021 680 3962.

Please note, this production is not recommended for younger theatre-goers, and has an age-restriction of 13. It contains strong language and prejudice in parts.

Follow Jonathan Duguid on Twitter, @theDramaKing.

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