national Arts Festival Banner

Sunday, March 20, 2011


(Roelof Colyn and Jonathan Roxmouth)

Smash hit returns to Durban’s Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

What piano show has run for 16 years? Which two-hander revue has won nine awards? Which show has changed cast four times and the sold-out signs still appear weekly outside the theatre? Which show defied all predictions, becoming both a cult show and a mainstream success?

That’s the legacy of A Handful of Keys which now returns for its 17th year, reaching Durban at the end of March.

On paper - the concept is so simple that it is hard to define the show's enormous appeal. Two pianists (admittedly brilliant and superlatively versatile), seated (occasionally) behind two gleaming grand pianos, take the audience on a tour of the maestros, mistresses and magnificent music that the piano has inspired. The result is one of the most satisfying and complete evening's entertainments imaginable.

The sheer virtuosity of the playing is dazzling as is the breakneck wit and interplay between the two gifted comedians. The inventiveness and constant surprise of what should be one long 'in-joke' transcends the limitations of the concept until, as one early reviewer wrote, "Act Two is spent hovering on the brink of a standing ovation, which when it arrives is tumultuous".

The story of how this show opened in a 160 seater theatre in 1994, with 94 advance bookings, and ending up selling out 1,000 seats has become part of South African theatre history. Originally starring its creators Bryan Schimmel and Ian von Memerty (Strictly Come Dancing and SA's Got Talent), it went on to claim nine awards, and played to in excess of 100,000 people in its first 300 shows.

In 2001, Roelof Colyn scored a massive hit when he joined the show alongside Ian von Memerty for another consistent series of sold-out shows, and another 100,000 people streamed into the theatre. Another triumphant tour with Roelof and Jeremy Quickfall in 2005/6 kept the show's momentum going and then in 2008 the musical wunderkind Jonathan Roxmouth partnered with Roelof, giving this evergreen show an injection of energy and sparkle that took the show past its 1000th performance with over 320,000 delighted patrons. Colyn and Roxmouth's red hot double act are on show this year.

artSMart’s reviewer Maurice Kort said: “This sparkling new production has the word "success" written all over it, I have rarely heard such an enthusiastic response from a first-night audience.”

Presented by The Rhumbelow Theatre in association with Essential Vibes, A Handful of Keys runs at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from March 29 to April 17. Tickets R130.

10% of ticket sales in Week 1 will be donated to The Theatre Benevolent Fund which is supported by Essential Vibes, Rhumbelow Theatre, Ian Von Memerty & The Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

Ticket prices for pensioners scholars, students and group booking offer 2 For The Price of 1 for the first week, thereafter R100.

Booking at Computicket. For more information contact Roland on 082 499 8636, email: or visit