THEATRE/MUSICAL-MEMOIR/CAPE TOWN: Jervis Pennington’s An Extraordinarily Ordinary Life, Alexander Bar and Theatre, November 26-30, 2019, 7pm and other venues – to be announced.
An Extraordinarily Ordinary Life: review/interview with Jervis Pennington
Show details: An Extraordinarily Ordinary Life
Writer and performer: Jervis Pennington
Directors: Nic Leonidas and Jervis Pennington
Producer: Nic Leonidas/Authentik Productions
Duration: 70 minutes
November 2019 season: Alexander Upstairs, November 26-30, 7pm
❇ This article includes extracts from an article, published in The Goodlife, Cape Times, February 22, 2019 and previous interviews with Cape Town singer/writer, Jervis Pennington who went from approval, perfection and praise as a boy band stud to life on the streets.
An Extraordinarily Ordinary Life is a poignant, harrowing but ultimately beautiful and darkly hilarious piece of theatre –inspiring and uplifting.
This one person show can easily travel. If you are reading this post and the run is over, keep your eyes peeled as it is likely to be staged again in the future.
In the 80s, Jervis Pennington was on top, heading up the boy band, The Soft Shoes. The band was hot. This was before social media but if Instagram and twitter had been around at the time, the band would have been on the boil. Pennington lost it all. The fame and adoration faded as he succumbed to drug addiction and ended up on the streets, sleeping in homeless hostels.
In 2015, Pennington shared his experiences on stage at The Cape Town Fringe, at City Hall, when he presented An Extraordinarily Ordinary Life – a musical-memoir, an account – and reckoning – of his journey- from fame to rags. This was a brave step for Pennington – to step into the limelight and reveal himself to the public. When I told people about the show, they could not believe that their idol had fallen from grace and celebrity.
The production at The Fringe was rapturously received. It was raw; unvarnished and relatable.
The show is a cautionary tale of how high one can go. We live a precarious existence and can lose our balance at any time and Pennington brings that into gritty focus – how he tumbled hard into hopelessnes and homelessness.
After the performance that I watched at The Fringe, people huddled to speak with Pennington. He is an extraordinary charismatic performer. He carries a sense of damage and vulnerability and shares that with his audience.
In the first staging of An Extraordinarily Ordinary Life, Pennington was joined on stage, by singer Janine Cupido. She left the show when she had a baby. Pennington went solo. Cupido has a beautiful voice but Pennington found that the narrative resonated more profoundly without her as a buffer. By going solo on stage, the rawness, pain, shame, hope – was heightened. It became his story –and about owning and embracing his journey.
Earlier this year , actor and artist’s agent Nic Leonidas came on board as producer and co-director.
Many people have staged their stories of de-railing and the search for if not redemption, then insight and healing through art. I think what makes this show stand out is Pennington’s musicality and his self-deprecating shtick. After seeing the show at The Cape Town Fringe, I enthused: “Emotionally overwhelming. It is a poignant, inspiring, uplifting, harrowing yet ultimately beautiful and darkly hilarious piece of theatre. Jervis should be in stand-up comedy.”
He is very funny; darkly funny. He takes the mickey out of himself – with grace and pathos.
We gaze at this boy band crooner of the 80s, who is standing on a stage, with a lone bench as a prop, singing his heart out, processing his journey. He came from a solid background- white privilege – not rich – but certainly a long way from the streets of Cape Town. He mused: “I come from an educated family, yes -well, except for my mother who majored in horse-riding for which she usually got an F, which stands for fell off. I ended up sleeping in shelters.”
The thrust of the show remains as when first staged in 2015. Pennington: “It’s not really essential that people need to know my story to make the show watchable. It’s still 50/50 blunt comedy/raw drama. Nic Leonidas has improved the show in many ways. He has got me to slow down my usual machine gun, sometimes incoherent, short-hand delivery style.”
As with the staging at the Cape Town Fringe and other venues, Pennington is delighted that people want to engage after the show. “Many people just want to give me a hug afterwards- nothing quite like a hug from a total stranger.” As for the loss of fame and fortune: “I seem to be a totally different performer to the one I was in the 80s when everything was about approval, perfection and about how much I could get people to praise me. I must have grown up a bit, because performing for me is now no different to thinking up, choosing and giving someone a present. They can love it for a day, or forever or not at all or just for the moment. I love the quote from Maya Angelou who said: ‘People will forget what you did and what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.’ And that’s the role of music, I think, to make us human, to make us feel. I haven’t transcended the pain, but I am fully comfortable with it and wouldn’t trade it for all the tea in China. It’s given me what I have craved all my life….a softer heart…Life begins at 60 plus when, at last, you get to sing the blues with authenticity.”
Theatre travel ✈ advisory – Alexander Bar and Theatre- info correct November 2019
✔ Alexander Bar & Café: 76 Strand Street (Corner Loop), Cape Town CBD, 8001. Open Mon-Fri 6pm – 11pm, Fri and Sat 4pm – 12am, Sun 4pm – 10pm.
✔ Booking: Book securely online with a credit card for any show at Alexander Bar and Theatre by visiting shows.alexanderbar.co.za or reserve your ticket without paying (but miss out on the discount)
✔ Direct booking page: An Extraordinarily Ordinary Life tickets may be booked at alexanderbar.co.za/show/anextraordinarilyordinarylife2019
✔ Tickets: R130 at door and R120 online (discount applies when reserving and PAYING online). Age restriction: Under 18s must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
✔Tickets at venue: Buy tickets, during opening hours: Mondays to Thursdays from 6pm and Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays 4pm. Info: 079 199 9078
✔Food and drink: Full bar service before and after shows. New menu under, created by chef Jason Whitehead- includes tapas and boards – November 2019.