Stevl Shefn and his Translator Fatima [FringeTIX]
Steve Sheehan @ SA Writer’s Centre
8:15pm, Thu 18 Feb 2010
Up the twelvety flights of stairs to the SA Writer’s Centre I go again, keen to see how Stevl Shefn is getting on. I’m greeted with chocolate frogs and the option of wine (which, for some reason, I fail to take advantage of). Melanie’s there – I say hello – and there’s some other familiar-but-not-quite-sure-where–from faces. I take a quick-getaway seat and jot a few memories down.
A tap on my shoulder – it’s the Great Hair from last night, all smiles and accompanied by a glass of riesling. We sit, we chat, and then Stevl Shefn & Fatima appear… and we laugh.
We laugh a lot.
Now, it would be remiss of me not to mention that this performance is largely a superset of Stevl Shefn’s appearance last year; the premise of the show is the same (Sheehan plays the eponymous Stevl, a wide-eyed gibberish-emitting character being translated by the burqa-clad Fatima). Large chunks of the material are the same – his aunt’s adult movie shop. The whale tourism. Even the grin-tacular rabies bit makes another visit.
And, even if it was just a repeat of that old material, I would’ve been happy… because it is staggeringly surreal, gut-bustingly funny, and just brilliant. The interaction of the characters onstage (mainly through their eyes), Fatima’s measured translations, Sheehan’s soaring physical mannerisms… it’s just a delight to watch.
But there’s more. The addition of the Stevl’s vacuum cleaner – one of his many “girlfriends” – adds a sublime element of tension to the interactions between Stevl and Fatima… the eyes, the silence, it’s just divine. I don’t recall the song from last year, either – the pair taking ages kitting Fatima up for her bass drum, chatting quietly amongst themselves, before Stevl strangles a trumpet and Fatima… well, it’s best just to go the show and find out what happens next ;)
It’s fair to say that this show gave me my first massive grin of the Fringe: when I was compiling The Shortlist, I spied it and noticed that there was a quote from me in the précis! But the fact that the show itself delivers bigger laughs than a grin-full of ego stroking should speak volumes; this was a must-see last year, and remains so now.