The Lying King: Circle of Laughter- Review ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Robyn Cohen- post, December 2019

Writer and performer: Alan Committie 

Direction: Christopher Weare 

Design: conceptualised by Alan Committie and executed by Birdie Bird 

Lighting: Faheem Bardien Rocks and props: Alan Committie: 

Tickets: R108-R220 at Computicket  

Alan Committie‘s The Lying King: Circle of Laughter is exceptional theatre of stand-up comedy. 
Brilliant writing; delivery, interaction and immersion with the audience as Committie draws on his acting smarts and comedic skills. Alan Committie-the Fleur du Cap Theatre award winning actor- kicked off the year as the lying king, in Shakespeare’s Richard III at Maynardville. With The Lying King: Circle of Laughter, for Pieter Toerien Productions, he is bookending the year with his take on lying kings in our discombobulated world and of course gleeful allusions to the Lion King – the film – original and the re-make. The centrepiece of the set is an island of rocks on astro turf – sprinkled with tinsel. It is an urban jungle – a rockery – dotted with props which includes a stack of vintage Encyclopaedia Britannica books- purchased from CAFDA charity bookshop and red and yellow peppers on a skateboard (don’t ask).

The island of rocks – is the central motif of the show. It is the circle of laughter; circle of madness; lying; truth, knowledge, closure, disclosure, deceit and entrapment.

For out-of-towners and others who may not know: The island of rocks references the traffic circle in Ladies Mile, Constantia. The mammoth traffic circle is comprised of an island of rocks. It is huge with multiple exits and entrances. The circle is adjacent to the recently opened Contantia Emporium- the shopping centre which was erected on land which was returned to a Cape Town family, Solomon, who were forcibly removed during Apartheid – under the draconian Group Areas Act. The mall opened on November 23, 2019. 

During construction, this very large traffic circle emerged – a body of rocks (possibly the most expensive rockery per square metre in Cape Town) with multiple confusing entry and exit lanes for cars. We were flummoxed. We are still baffled.  It reminds me of famous crop circles in wheat fields which conspiracy theorists insist appeared through the efforts of land grabbing Aliens. Is there a message in this circle? 

The Ladies Mile traffic circle has become a talking point- a tourist attraction. We don’t know how to navigate this circle. It is carousel that we go round and round; like a Ferris wheel as imaged so vividly by the frenetic lyrics of Jacques Brel’s song, Carousel, which Committie plays in his show. 

If you get caught in the inner lane of this traffic circle; you may never be able to check out. In The Lying King Committie plays brilliantly off this carousel/ installation of rocks. See pic on this post of the traffic circle. A drone would be required to give an aerial view sense of scale and the intricate placing of rocks. There are multiple pedestrian crossings but none of them provide access to the body of rocks. Who knows what is in the centre.

With the emblematic use of the traffic circle, with Lying King, Committie pushes the boundaries of a stand-up show – a festive season audit of 2019.   Sure, he riffs and pings off load shedding and South African Airways and what-what but the material is constructed around a narrative which loops and spins around itself, with Committie the ringmaster of the circus.The audience becomes part of the circus. Committie’s repartee with his audience goings way beyond the usual stand-up banter approach – picking on people in the audience: “Where you from? Noodhoek? Ha ha – ja bru”. Audience laughs and then he asks someone else. “Where you from. Ha ha America.” Nope, Committie does not jab at his audience for quickies. It is like a game of mirth –between Committie and audience. 

Director Chris Weare is an ardent tennis player. Chatting to him at interval, he invoked terminology of tennis to describe how Committie operates with this show as he serves back to the audience – with sheer brilliance –as he employs strategies of game playing –volleying back; delivering surprise moves. Committie is at the net – ready to serve back – hard and fast- whatever comes his way. It is breathtakingly to watch as he splices titbits from the audience and how he inserts that into his framework of the mad circle of laughter.

It is theatre of immersion as the audience whirls around the circle of laughter with Committie. Intertwined with his audit of 2019, are references to vintage Committie moments – like his performing Defending the Caveman. His tenure as a school teacher is evidenced with his signature dissection of language as he invokes the trappe van vergelyking (Afrikaans – degrees of comparison) with his own linguistic and etymological Alan Committie-isms- with artistic use of Latin this and that. Narrative spoiler alert follows. Committie brings the house down with his relationship set, as he cites his girlfriend’s State Of the Relationship Address – which she delivers twice a year. This is delicious comedy – reminiscent of Defending the Caveman and the binary battle between men and women. During the show, watch as couples nudge each other when Committie delivers this set- terrific quotable comedy which couples can and should act on after the show- cheaper than therapy. Listen and learn.

Lighting design is fabulous – moody, with shots of disco glitter ball patterns and jungle/leaf shapes and splodges.  Faheem Bardien makes dramatic use of Committie’s hazer machine. A hazer is like a smoke/fog machine but with enhanced visual capabilities, facilitating atmospheric lighting effects which are not just smoke and fog. The hazer belongs to Committie. He also has his own personal smoke/fog machine. Tools of the trade are essential, he says. That is not a joke. 

Direction by Chris Weare is superb. This show marks the 20th year of the collaboration between Committie and Weare. Theatrically speaking, they are on the same comedic serve and they groove off each other during rehearsal process. The result is heightened theatre of comedy – rather than stand-up with a bit of lighting and a few props.  

The Lying King is an essential festive season tonic- clever, scathing, supremely entertaining and uplifting. We can and must find comic relief in the carousel of madness and mirth.

With The Lying King, Alan Committie delivers a masterclass in the art of theatre of stand-up comedy. 

 🇿🇦🎭Theatre on the Bay: The Lying King 👑 – theatre/travel ✈️ advisory The Lying King:

1️⃣ Circle of Laughter is on at Theatre On The Bay from December 10 2019 to January 25, 2020 at 8pm.

2️⃣ Tickets: R108-R220. Computicket is the authorised ticket seller. Direct booking link or call theatre box office on 021 438 3301 Theatrics Club: subscribers receive 50% discount on tickets- choose out of six shows over a season, exclusive offers to productions.


The Producers – February 4 to March 28, 2020 at Theatre on the Bay, Cape Town and then in Johannesburg at Montecasino Theatre from April 3 to May 31, 2020.

Venues: Theatre On The Bay: 1 Link Road, Camps Bay, 8005. Montecasino: 1 Montecasino Blvd, Fourways, Midrand, 2055