Interview: Step into the world of circus magic with Slapstick by Zip Zap Circus – new show- premiering May 2022,-in The Zip Zap Dome, Cape Town

Slapstick – presented by Zip Zap Circus, Cape Town- premiere season- May 2022

Where: Zip Zap Dome, Artscape precinct, Foreshore, Cape Town
When and times: May 21 and 22 and May 28 and 29 at noon and 4pm
Tickets: R155
Direct booking link:

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Zip Zap Circus was scheduled to present its new show, Slapstick, in December 2021, but the run was postponed because of the uptick in Covid cases and concerns over safety for patron and the circus company. There is tremendous excitement that Slapstick – a devised circus show- can now be on stage. Slapstick is on this weekend- May 21 and 22 [2022] and then next weekend- May 28 and 29 [2022]- with shows at noon and 4pm. The cast, creative team and others involved- provide insights into creating an original circus show – from the concept to stage:

In development since 2019

Slapstick was scheduled for December 2021 but had to be postponed because of the rise in pandemic numbers. Is it the same show that we are seeing or have changes been made, since then? Brigette Chapman who is the events manager explains: “Essentially, yes, it is. Slapstick has been created by a collective and performed by the Zappers and Dare2Dream students so it’s continuously evolving as they develop themselves as performers and their acts. What we had rehearsed for December 2021 has ultimately improved as we have had an extra five months to work on the show creation. The show has actually been in the works since the end of 2019, but we all know what happened in 2020 and 2021 so we’re super excited to see the show finally come to life on stage.”

Laughing so loud that it hurts

Zip Zap has noted that “historically circus has been used as entertainment to bring joy back into people’s lives. This is exactly what happened during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Today Zip Zap Circus is about to lift your spirits once again.” Things feel bleak at the moment with so much bad news. Slapstick sounds like it has been conceptualized as fun and entertaining? Phelelani Ndakrokra who is part of the collective which created Slapstick, muses: “The show aims to provide entertainment for both young and old. We’ve created an experience, which will leave our supporters grinning from ear to ear, and laughing so loud that it hurts.”

The 1930s intersecting with Covid in Slapstick

Whose idea was it to do Slapstick? Who came up with the concept? Brigette Chapman: “In 2019 the Shows Team was in a think tank session about the next Zip Zap Show for 2020 and through discussions, Brent van Rensburg, the artistic director of Zip Zap, came up with the name, Slapstick. The initial story board of the show was very different to what the final product has become, but ironically enough, the pandemic gave us a reason to look back at history and find the correlation between the Great Depression and the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Devised circus theatre

This is devised circus theatre – crafted by the collective of performers and instructors: Jason Barnard, Phelelani Ndakrokra, Ivan Vladimirov, Mosuli Ntshonga, Siyabonga Swelindawo and Jacobus Claassen with input from Portia Kewana, Brigette Chapman and Brent van Rensburg. Can you tell us how you went about devising Slapstick? Did you watch clips from Swing, Gypsy Jazz, The Three Stooges and Charlie Chaplin and then take your cues from there? Jacobus Claasen: “We looked at the origin of circus, and how it was used to entertain people. We also researched a variety of elements such as costumes, make-up, hair, styles of music, styles of dance, styles of circus, popular themes, and trends. Through weekly brainstorming sessions, researching photographs, videos, music and articles, and our creative team’s experience, the show was built.”

The format and what to expect

Zip Zap is a theatrical circus company. We often see characters and narratives in Zip Zap shows. In Slapstick, do we see protagonists who are there to take us through the show? Is there a ‘story’ or is it themed around ‘slapstick’- fun, pies being thrown, gags – but no story as such? Brigette Chapman: “We’re going to leave this as a surprise.” Phelelani Ndakrokra: “There are two parts to the show, with an interval, and a total of 16 acts.“  Jacobus Claasen: “The show is made up of a good mix of expression and a spoken word or two.”

Music and choreography

Music has become increasingly important in Zip Zap shows. What can we expect in terms of the soundtrack? Have you sourced pieces of music from the golden era of slapstick? Brigette Chapman: “The show will be performed to backing tracks, mostly originals too. The collective creative team has spent hours listening to music from the 1930s through to the 1970s to find the best songs for the show so we can guarantee that you will be hearing all new music for this show that will make audiences feel good and get its feet tapping.”

Choreography- from Swing to Pantsula

Movement and dance is key to Zip Zap shows. Can you give insights into the choreography for Slapstick? Are you using motifs and genres from Africa – such as gumboot and/or are you keeping to a more universal vibe of continental circus – which could be anywhere? Phelelani Ndakrokra: “The choreography for Slapstick includes a variety of different styles, from Swing to Pantsula, catering for both young and old.”

The costume fairy creating circus magic

Who has designed the costumes – insights into the palette of the show- the ‘look’ of the costumes and design in general? Jacobus Claasen: “The team as a collective, has had input on costume design through the extensive research done for the show. We were led by Portia Kewana who is our costume fairy. She has made thousands of costumes for Zip Zap shows and knows our costume room inside out. We pitched some ideas and she let us know what was possible and what could work.”

Step into the world of circus magic with Slapstick

Slapstick is an original contemporary circus show- which has been informed by the history of Slapstick- a nod to the genre and history of slapstick – particularly in the 1930s but here we are in 2022 on the African continent – with Zip Zap’s take on slapstick- in a time when we need to be transported by the magic of circus? Brigette Chapman: “The creative team and the performers have worked so hard to keep the show as traditional as possible. It’s not just about the show itself – we want our audiences to step into our world of circus magic and escape from reality – just for two hours of their day.”

Slapstick: Mila Netto-Heydenrych (left) Merlo Hollenbach (right) in Zip Zap’s Slapstick. Supplied.
Aerial Hoop: Athule Mshudulu in Slapstick. Supplied.

✳ Images supplied.