The Alexander Bar has done a great thing in giving a platform to both established and upcoming talent in South Africa. It has been the venue for many a great show but – almost inevitably – some do not quite hit the mark. Over an hour of monotonous storytelling, When We Were Nearly Young falls straight into the ‘try again later’ pile, perpetuating gay stereotypes through unoriginal content.
When We Were Nearly Young, written and performed by Lebogang Mogashoa, is presented as “real stories from his life told with candour and humour”. True, the stories are as real as they get and the situations are funny. But, they’re also awkward. Very awkward. And quite painful to listen to. Mogashoa opens his storytelling escapade by relating a drunken night when he got mugged in Johannesburg. Somehow his bloody face, intoxicated disorientation and lonely desperation act on him as an aphrodisiac that ends up in a sexual encounter which has him running to the closest STD test centre the following morning. It would take real insight and linguistic prowess to turn such a terrible situation into a skit of comedic genius. It would require good timing, exaggerated facial expressions, perhaps an accent or two to make this good storytelling and not self-indulgent drivel. But, alas.
Perhaps you might resonate with his experiences, with his irrational anxieties and then you will feel like you’ve found a soulmate. Fleeting as the experience may be. In Mogashoa’s defense, he seems to have a very specific following of people who loved the show. This reviewer was not one of them.
When We Were Nearly Young runs at the Alexander Bar, Cape Town from 5 to 16 May 2015.