national Arts Festival Banner

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Forget economic and political headlines – head for Catalina and enjoy a great evening of music from some of Durban’s finest! (Review by Caroline Smart)

“The birth of The Traveling Wilburys was a happy accident” writes Mo Ostin, Chairman Emeritus of Warner Bros. Records ( “Warner Bros. Records' International Department had asked that (ex Beatles) George Harrison come up with a B-side for This Is Love, a single from his Cloud Nine album. At the time, it was customary to couple an A-side with a never-before-heard track, giving the single extra sales value. This was mid-1988. Cloud Nine was just out. George, along with co-writer Jeff Lynne and their friends Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Roy Orbison, had been hanging out in Dylan's studio. I suppose George figured that as long as his pals were hand, why not use them to knock off this flip side.”

Said “flip side” was Handle with Care and Warner Bros Records knew that this was a song that could not be wasted on a B-side and thus the full, collaborative album was born, its title taking reference from “wilburys” - the name George Harrison and Jeff Lynne gave to studio equipment such as limiters and equalizers. Spearheaded by Harrison, the group was initially called The Trembling Wilburys before it became the Traveling Wilburys. Rolling Stone magazine named The Traveling Wilburys one of the 100 Best Albums of All Time.

Actor, musician, director and impresario Themi Venturas has long been inspired to create a Durban answer to The Traveling Wilburys. Choosing from the impressive list of Durban musicians with great individual and independent music careers, he has assembled a fascinating group of musicians, himself included, for the short season of The Durban Wilburys, featuring the inimitable talents of Syd Kitchen, Steve Fataar, Tiki Nxumalo and Roly Struckmeyer.

Forget economic and political headlines for a while and sit back and enjoy this great evening of music from some of Durban’s finest! Each contributes his own individual style to the success of the production.

The impish Syd Kitchen (Skyd Wilbury), incidentally the only muso to have played at all the Splashy Fen festivals so far, is undeniably the star of the show. Offering the occasional appropriate movement sequence, playing a length of rubber piping and handling most of the solo numbers, his mischievous style responded well to tonight’s audience which included a large number of teenagers. A quick calculation would reveal that their parents probably weren’t even born at the introduction of The Twist! Nevertheless, the more they gave, the more he gave back.

Tall, lanky and laconic - and the fifth youngest of the group (ie the oldest!) - Steve Fataar (Wiltin’ Wilbury) reminds us of his contribution to music in Durban from his days as the leader of the city’s famous group, The Flames. Focused and controlled, the youngest Wilbury is Roly Struckmeyer (Want-In Wilbury) primarily on bass guitar who is occasionally enticed onto the vocals platform to lend his individual style to the songs in question such as Last Night.

Themi Venturas (Bokkie Wilbury) and Tiki Nxumalo (Blackberry Wilbury) go way back to the days of the Sneddon Bistro Theatre as well as the then Natal Performing Arts Council’s (now The Playhouse Company) Kwasa outreach programme, a project which the Playhouse Company could well revive today to its best advantage. One of the highlights of The Durban Wilburys was Missing Persons, a number with a Jamaican beat that Themi and Tiki wrote for Kwasa’s Taxi Jam.

After an amusing laid-back opening when the musos (nattily dressed à la Traveling Wilburys) stroll on stage and survey the audience critically, seemingly posing the question – “are they worth performing to?”, the show kicks off with Handle Me with Care, the number that so impressed Warner Bros Records all those years ago.

No indication is given in the programme as to who is responsible for set design but expect to see a fascinating theatre space cleverly transformed into a kind of barn area with hay bales, raised platforms and hessian hangings. There are a couple of amusing short video clips from Glen Bo.

On the downside, the sound balance seriously needs attention, but otherwise this is a show that should not be missed if you like this kind of music. Expect to hear Kelvin’s Kitchen, Africa is Not for Sissies, Precious Love, When the Boogie Dies, Needy Time (a tribute to the late Miriam Makeba), You Got it, Congratulations, Cool Dry Place and End of the Line, not to mention the Wilbury Twist. I still can’t believe that I entered with gusto into the audience participation number that had something to do with washing smelly socks!

The Durban Wilburys runs at Catalina Theatre in Wilson’s Wharf until November 23. Shows are Wednesday to Saturday at 20h00 with extra matinees on Saturdays at 17h00 (Sunday shows at 14h00 and 18h00). Tickets R75 (R40 concessions) and for corporate block bookings, charity fundraisers and show / meal deals call Thandeka on (031) 305 6889 / 3057612 or email – Caroline Smart

The Catalina Theatre is still functioning thanks to financial support from Rainbow Chicken as well as the eThekwini Municipality. One of the welcome new innovations is a ticket office at ground level opposite Zacks’ entrance, which considerably eases the congestion previously experienced it the bar area. More improvements are in the pipeline!