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BLACK MAMBA - Director's cut



Ben Voss and James Cuningham.

Written by

John van de Ruit, Ben Voss, James Cuningham

Directed by Murray McGibbon



Media Release






If hilarious, fast-paced, bitingly clever satire is your fix, then don't miss Ben Voss and James Cuningham in their production, Black Mamba. Written by Ben Voss, John van de Ruit (of SPUD fame) and James Cunningham. This multi-award winning team have been significantly acknowledged for their writing, directing and performing. Black Mamba premièred at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in 2005 and was reported to be the fastest selling show on the fringe.


South African, Indiana based Murray McGibbon directs Mamba.  


After the phenomenally successful Green Mamba, the first show of the Mamba series, Black Mamba has also had a season of full houses and rave reviews. First at the Grahamstown Festival, Hilton Festival, then in Durban, Cape Town and Johannesberg.


Black Mamba now has a new face with James Cuningham (Boababs don’t grow here, Black and Blue) joining Ben on stage. The show was written over a seven-month period beginning in November 2004. Many of the first drafts of the sketches were scripted on a two month writing holiday in Thailand which coincided with the catastrophic Boxing Day Tsunami. The Mambas witnessed the Tidal waves from a tiny island on the Andaman Sea, some 100km South of Phuket.


Black Mamba – directors cut features the best of Green and Black Mamba with some brand new sketches as well for those mamba fans who want something new! These are some of the finest sketches written for the South African stage. In a country where we are constantly surprised, positively and negatively, there is much for satirical sketch comedy to feast on! From car guards to crooked politicians!


Billy Suter of Natal Mercury described Mamba as; ‘delicious, refreshingly un-PC and a laugh a minute’, urging all to ‘See it!’  Henry Benson of Going Places, says, ‘Aside from the biting social commentary, Mamba also possesses moments of sublime scripting excellence. The brilliant Missing Link quiz show must been seen to be appreciated for its skilful construction’.  Sally Scott of Natal Witness mentions amongst many, the sketch, Two Many Cooks; ‘Stirring the political pot, the two chefs deliver a fast and funny innuendo-laden observation  ...…’


Other highlights include a twelve minute illustrated History of South Africa which spans over 600 years of conquering and re-conquering and a savage grilling of the Minister of Health.



      Fool Award 2003 -  Best Original Script

Durban Theatre Award -  Best Original Script and

Best Performance in a comedy (Ben Voss)

Naledi Award 2004 Best Comedy Performance

(Ben Voss and John van de Ruit)

Fleur de Cap winner 2005 – Best comic performance (Ben Voss)

Naledi award winner – Best Review (2006)




Associate Professor - Acting and Directing, M.F.A. Acting and Directing, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, 1987 Higher Diploma in Education,
University of  KwaZulu/Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa,
1979 B.A. English and Speech and Drama, University of KwaZulu/Natal,  Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 1978
Appointed to IU in 1996


One of South Africa's leading stage directors and producers, Murray McGibbon is the recipient of the South African Airways Young Artists Award (1989) and the American Biographical Association Distinguished Young Leadership Award (1990). He was awarded a Fulbright scholarship in 1983 which enabled him to undertake his graduate studies in the USA.

Murray McGibbon has won
South Africa's highest theatrical award, the VITA, five times and is internationally recognized as a dynamic and innovative director equally at home with the classics, modern drama, theatre for young audiences and musicals. For six years he served as Artistic Director of Drama for the Playhouse Company in Durban, South Africa, where he directed 40 productions and produced 122.


His publications include Theatre in the 21st Century, a journey backwards into the future; The Playhouse Cookbook and acting editions of Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream The Tempest and Speech Training for You!, the third edition of Elizabeth Sneddon's text, that he edited and revised for American students. Since joining the faculty at Indiana University in 1996, Prof. McGibbon has directed
Greater Tuna, Master Harold...and 'the boys', The Foreigner, Romeo and Juliet, Cole, 'Art', I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, Scapino!, Noises Off, Equus, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Nunsense - The Second Coming, The Servant of Two Masters, The Oblong Man, The Fantasticks, A Piece of My Heart, All in the Timing, Nunsense, and Kindertransport.

Murray McGibbon is the recipient of a Teaching Excellence Recognition Award (2000) from
Indiana University and is currently working on New Directions - A Collection of Post-Apartheid South African Drama.


Most recently he was awarded a New Frontiers Grant sponsored by the Lilly Foundation to create and direct an African version if THE TEMPEST in South Africa next summer. Prof. McGibbon currently has two productions running in South Africa, the cult classic FRANK&STEIN and the world premiere of John Van Der Ruit and Ben Voss's BLACK MAMBA. He will direct Joanna Murray Smith's HONOUR in early spring of 2006 for Indiana University.


BEN VOSS is a Durban boy.  He was born in Zimbabwe, grew up in the Ciskei and moved to Natal in his teens. He was at boarding school at Uthongathi – South Africa’s first non-racial, coed, boarding school, matriculating in 1990. Ben completed an honours degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Natal in Durban as well as a BCom honours in Human Resources.


But the theatre bug had bit early on in his school days and, after resigning from his engineering post, he started acting, without any training (at the ripe old age of 25) in January 1998. He set up the production Company Thunderdog Productions and together with John van de Ruit wrote, produced and performed in a variety of shows. These include the popular sporting comedies The Final Cut and Foul Play co-written and produced by Ben. Both these shows toured South Africa extensively. He has also played lead roles in many new South African works such as War Cry, Seeing Red, Isabella, Shades of Marguerite Poland, The Great Outdoors and his one-man show Men's Night (Directed by Happy Natives Author - Greig Coetzee) During 2002 - 2004 Ben and his business partner John wrote and acted in the smash hit comedy Green Mamba, a razor-sharp sketch-based satirical show which has had over 230 performances throughout South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia. In the final quarter of 2003 Ben took a break from Green Mamba and spent 3 months touring the UK and Germany in B & R’s acclaimed production of Greig Coetzee’s Happy Natives.

He was nominated for a FNB vita award for best actor in 1999, 2000 and 2001. He won the FNB vita award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Sir Andrew in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night in 2001 and won the Best actor award for the title role in Macbeth in 2002. He also won the award for Best New SA Script in 2003. Ben has also won the Fool Award for best performance in a comedy as well as the Gauteng Naledi theatre award for the same category. Both were for his part in Green Mamba. For Black Mamba he has won the coveted Fleur de Cap and Naledi award. His one man show Beauty and the B.E.E launched in 2008 and has played throughout the country. She can e heard speaking her mind on Jacaranda and East coast radio.


JOHN VAN DE RUIT was born in Durban and educated at Michaelhouse and the University of Natal, where he completed his Masters Degree (Cum laude) in Drama and Performance studies. John first stepped onto the stage in the title role of Oliver in the Michaelhouse 1990 school production and has never looked back. He has performed in a number of productions and highlights include title roles in Hamlet and Master Harold… and the Boys and appearing in his own play War Cry for which he received a best actor FNB VITA award nomination. Most recently he has been seen in Greig Coetzee’s Seeing Red and Athol Fugard’s, People are Living There, for which he received a FNB VITA award nomination.  John has also starred in an independent film called, I Shot Lucy and an ABC docudrama Global Health, due to be screened in America in 2006. Together with Ben Voss he received the Johannesburg Naledi award for best comedy performance for Green Mamba


As a writer, John has won a number of awards including an FNB VITA award for best script and the Noupoort award for new writing, both for his play War Cry. He has also won two awards for his co-writing of Green Mamba. In 2004 he directed, produced and wrote his second full length play Crooked which premièred at the 2004 Hilton Festival. John’s first novel, Spud, was published by Penguin Books and launched nationally in September 2005 and was selected for the Exclusive Books Publishers Choice 2005 and is described as a wickedly funny novel, that is certain to become one of the most hilarious releases of the year. Spud – The Madness Continues is currently out in paperback. The second book of the Spud series. His third is on its way.

JAMES CUNINGHAM Since training at The University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, with Keith Johnstone in Canada and at The Jacques Lecoq School in Paris, James has been improvising, devising, performing and directing theatre with various companies in South Africa, the UK, France, Spain and Canada.

In 2002, he formed Fresco Theatre with Helen Iskander. Their first show Baobabs Don’t Grow Here, has since toured Southern Africa and Europe winning international acclaim, including a Stage Award and Total Theatre Award nomination at The Edinburgh Fringe 2002. In Europe he has performed in Le Poullalier du Monde, Murder, Bond, Les Trois Mousquetaires, and What If?, all of which were devised by the companies. His most recent performance was in Wood for the Trees / Bosryk for The National Arts Festival and Aardklop Festival in 2005.

With Helen Iskander he has devised and co-directed 5 new South African plays: Fortunately with Sylvaine Strike and Brian Webber for The Market Theatre in 2002, Black and Blue with Sylvaine Strike and Danny Mooi; De Wet’s Dream with Luke Rous and Meren Reddy, which has toured festivals around the country; 2 for the Price of 1 with Charmaine Weir-Smith, Nick Boraine and Lerato Moloi; and Electric Juju, starring Rob van Vuuren.

James has written, performed and directed numerous corporate theatre projects. He wrote sketch comedy for ITV’s The Sketch Show in the UK, which has since also been released by American television network NBC. He also appeared regularly in SABC 3’s hit comedy, Sorted.

Following an invitation from multi award-winning UK company Theatre O, James recently co-devised and performed in a new piece at the National Theatre Studio in London. He regularly gives performance workshops, and teaches performance principles to animators.

BLACK MAMBA - Director's cut


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