Interview with Chantal Stanfield, prior to the Cape Town run of her comedy solo show, From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach at the Baxter 2017/18
In the show, she ruminates how she met her husband’s family and her entry into Jewish Johannesburg. This interview was published in The Weekend Argus in December 2017. The show was on until January 2018. Stanfield filmed the production at the Baxter and intended to release it on DVD – one day. In the meantime, she had plans to tour the show further and had embarked on writing a sequel. Covid-19 intervened and in lockdown, the recording is available for streaming.
It is an important show – raises issues of “casual racism”: Oh we were just joking. We didn’t mean anything. A lot of Yiddish words may have once been deemed okay and tolerated but they are definitely not acceptable. It is not acceptable to couch racism under the banner of so called Jewish humour. Stanfield raised the usage of the highly offensive S word and the G word. They are not funny words. They are racist. Watch the show and you will see what I mean.
✔ Dates: Friday June 26, 2020, noon until Friday July 10, 2020, 7pm
✔ Tickets: R60
✔ Bookings: Quicket
✳Booking and production details follow
Interview withChantal Stanfield – December 2017
The Baxter season of From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach is a homecoming for Stanfield who grew up on the Cape Flats (Strandfontein), studied drama at UCT (theatre and performance) and then headed for Jozi and a big career as a singer, dancer, voice-artist and stage and television.
From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach is based on her own experiences of finding love, framed against a cultural clash of coloured and Jewish sensibilities and lashings of bafflement as she tried to decode a plethora of foods and customs. Stanfield met the singer/composer RJ Benjamin. They had connected previously but their romance was ignited by a chat on twitter. The attraction and connection was immediate. They just had to navigate their respective families – the many differences and yet similarities.
RJ’s family lived in Edenvale on Joburg’s East Rand. Jewish or not Jewish – as an ex Joburger- I can say that entering Edenvale for the first time can be a scary prospect for anyone-irrespective of religious affiliation.
Stanfield had to deal with Jewish dishes such as kneidlach (matzoh balls – boiled dumplings- they can be sublime soul food and in the wrong hands, they can be like eating lumps of cardboard). She was challenged with gefilte fish (minced fish which is boiled – usually utterly unpalatable and only made edible when eaten with copious amounts of horseradish which is a bit like wasabi). In addition to the food, Stanfield had to get up to speed up with religious accoutrements such as sheitls. These are wigs worn by ultra-orthodox women, in order to cover their hair. Only their husbands may see their locks.
Performing at Daphne Kuhn’s theatre in Sandton- with a fair whack of the audience being Jewish- it must have been interesting to see the responses to her shtick? “The majority of the audience in Joburg did turn out to be Jewish because the word spread like wildfire within the community,” mused Stanfield. “There’s one scene in the play where I can always determine if the audience is open-minded and open to critique or not. It’s almost all fun and games until that one scene. What was most interesting was meeting all the couples after the show and their relationships mirrored the one they’d just seen in some way: Jewish-Hindi, Christian-Jewish, Afrikaans-English etc. It was heart-warming to hear their stories and they were in turn glad that someone was telling ‘their’ story too. I’m so glad and thankful that Daphne Kuhn and Megan Furniss were on board from the start. They took a chance on me and pushed me to the places I was scared to write about precisely because of potentially negative responses – like: ‘who’s this Coloured girl telling our story?’ type of thing. They both have a Jewish background, which I wanted for balance.”
I put it to Stanfield that in performing the show at the Baxter, that there is likely a be more of a ‘coloured’ audience – who may be rather perplexed at the possibility of downing gefilte fish (with difficulty) and donning sheitls. The laugh lines may be very different? “I think so. The crowd in Joburg was mixed but definitely erred along Jewish lines. On nights when it was the other way around – especially Friday nights – the laugh lines were certainly different but it became a more ‘learning/listening’ audience. It felt like the audience, particularly the Coloured crowd, was experiencing this brave new world in real-time and commiserating with me on stage.”
Image credit: supplied
From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach
✅ Dates: Friday June 26, noon until Friday July 10, 7pm
✅ Writer and performer: Chantal Stanfield
✅ Director: Megan Furniss
✅ Music: Paul Choritz
✅ Pre-show music: RJ Benjamin
✅ Lighting design: Furniss and Alfred Rietmann
✅ Direct booking link:
✅ Tickets: R60
✅ Duration of show: One hour and ten minutes