Festival 2009 began for me with a return to the past – my own, and that of Aldo Brincat. On Thursday 2 July at 12, I went to see My Father’s Hat, by Brincat. Today marked my very first time at the National Arts Festival, and Brincat’s twentieth. In this hour-long one-man show, he melds typical magician acts with physical theatre storytelling techniques. Through the use of masks, mime, disappearing acts and many more tricks, he not only proves his talent at magician work, but he tells us the stories of three generations – his father’s, his own, and his son’s. The balloon tricks they grew up with – “this one’s a squirrel…with a nut” and the endless rehearsing – “not now dad, I’m watching tv!” are relayed to the audience in a constant dialogue between the comic and the tragic. Brincat twists balloons in between arguing with his wife about an empty bank account and a grandpère in hospital.
The 9 people in the audience must have wondered if this was all a little too meta-theatrical, and if there was any truth in these stories. But Brincat happens to be a family friend of mine. And I remember my parents discussing over dinner how his one-man theatre shows in Durban just weren’t bringing in enough money, so he had to turn to hiring himself out as a party clown for little children’s 6th birthday parties. But even that didn’t work, and to find better opportunities he moved to Botswana some years ago. That was the last time I saw him, until today. I’ll never forget his painted face, his waistcoat and suspenders. The twisted balloons, the puckered lips, the sound effects. The lack of money, the tension between a job you love and a job that feeds your kids – the man behind the clown’s red nose… because
“do you really think people would pay to see this?!“