I am a stage performer in South Africa. I specialize in one-man shows wherein I tell complete stories while playing a number of different characters. The characters can vary drastically in race, age, sex and personality. The style of performance is very physical – entailing the use of minimal props and costumes and (almost) no set. I currently perform in three shows; THE CHILLI BOY, HOOT and MONKEY NUTS. All three shows still tour South Africa and are very popular with South African theatre audiences. The shows (all hilarious comedies) are written, directed and produced by my wife – Geraldine Naidoo.
I grew up on the border between the ‘cities’ of Boksburg and Germiston in an area known as the East Rand of South Africa. The area was a ‘twilight zone’ of bizarre characters – many of whom feature as characters in my one-man shows. After school, I didn’t have money to go to university and, at that time (1993), the Apartheid regime who ruled South Africa, had a law that all white boys, over the age of sixteen (who were not in school or university) had to do twelve months of military service.
So I found myself in the navy in Simons Town. I didn’t mind it really; the food was better than at home and they gave us an endless supply of fresh milk – something I wasn’t used to while growing up. My mother is one of those people who will buy ‘crap’ just because it costs two cents cheaper – so the only milk I got at home was powdered milk … which was terrible. I LOOOOVE fresh milk … I’d drink three litres of (fresh) milk every day in the navy – I’m sure my bones are bulletproof by now. The navy was heaven for me. After my 12 months of compulsory military service, I signed a contract for an extra two years – the pay was way better on contract. I spent eighteen months on land bases before I finally got onto a ship.
I found ways to make extra money in the navy: I’d wash and iron other sailor’s clothes for them; I’d sell alcohol and cigarettes at odd hours when nothing else was available – I’d even take other sailors shifts (for a good fee) so that they could go have fun ashore. My work was mainly menial; chipping and painting, scrubbing decks, loading/offloading cargo, standing look-out on the bridge and, of course … cleaning toilets. I was actually very good at this – the toilets, that I cleaned, were the cleanest toilets in the entire world.
The ship, I worked and lived on, sailed mostly around the vast coast of South Africa. It did once sail to Abu Dhabi, Karachi, Bombay and Muscat – and I just happened to be on board. One night, in the middle of the Arabian Sea, I looked up to the stars and decided to become one myself. This sounds ‘corny’ I know but when you’re young and full of dreams, as I was then – the ‘corny-ness’ takes on a nature quite profound.
After two and a half years in the navy, I’d saved up enough money to pay for university. I went on to study drama at Wits University in Johannesburg where I obtained an honours degree. After University, I did what most actors do and worked as a waiter at a restaurant in New York. In 2000, I spent three days auditioning to do my Masters degree in theatre at the world-renowned Columbia University Theatre School in New York. I was accepted but, due to major financial constraints, I was unable to take up the offer.
I returned to South Africa and worked extensively in industrial and educational theatre. In 2002 I started performing THE CHILLI BOY. HOOT, my second one-man show, premiered in 2005; my third one-man show, MONKEY NUTS, premiered in 2009. Up until 2012 all three plays (HOOT, THE CHILLI BOY and MONKEY NUTS) were still enjoying regular seasons and playing to capacity crowds in major South African cities – making me one of the busiest performers in South African theatre. Post 2012 – I decided to take a break from performing most nights of the year in favour of a more normal life. That is when I shifted my attention to creating and performing Industrial theatre which has much more reasonable hours. I still do perform my theatre shows – they are extremely popular as once-off performances with schools and companies around South Africa. I also still perform a season of one of my shows at a theatre once a year – though I limit these seasons to my home city of Joburg.
I spend my free time entertaining a three year old.