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‘Living in sin’ for laughs

Buhle Mbonambi was invited to the set of e.tv’s new comedy, Vat ’n Sit…  then was thrown off the set because the leads were uncomfortable

When e.tv invited TV writers to Joburg for a set visit of their new comedy, Vat ’n Sit, it was a big deal. This hardly ever happens and when it does, you make sure you go. So when we were thrown off the set, it was something of an anti-climax. 

This is what happened. We arrived at the studios and were briefed about what we should and should not do: switch off cellphones, no flash photography and no talking.
There was a note from the production company asking the cast to be extra friendly. We were then led on to the set. 

The two leads, Liopelo Maphathe (Mpho) and Trevor Gumbi (Thomas), were in bathrobes, preparing for a scene in which their characters were just out of the shower. The assistant director shouted “action”. Thomas walked in on Mpho as she stepped out of the shower. 
An awkward moment ensued. Mpho screamed. Thomas closed the door. “I didn’t see anything,” he called out. They moved around the set, from the bedroom to the lounge. 
“How many times must I tell you to knock,” Mpho asked Thomas. “But I didn’t see anything,” he retorted, then mischievously added: “But I’ve seen you naked before.” Furious, Mpho stomped away. 

The director yelled “cut”, briefed them and did another take. This went on for two more takes. On the third take, the director immediately yelled “cut” and asked the media to leave, saying, “My cast is uncomfortable”. 

The two e.tv publicists and the two producers were clearly embarrassed that this had happened, and quickly arranged for the scene to be completed. In all of this, we had to wonder just why they had chosen that particular scene to let the press in. It’s understandable that being half-naked with so many people watching you, especially those who are not in the production, can make you feel uncomfortable.

Less than 10 minutes later, the cast walked into the boardroom. 
Half of the invited journalists had left (only 10 had been invited) and there was an awkwardness in the room. So I broke the tension by asking the group how much they liked working together. 
“It’s fun,” boomed Gumbi. “We love each other. We make fun of each other. Or I should say, I make fun of them.” 
They burst out laughing. 
“It’s a great group of people to work with. We work hard so we can play hard. We are not serious. We don’t want to be serious. And being together helps improve the chemistry between the cast.” The assistant producer said a chemistry test had been done with cast members and they found them able to work quite well together.

When asked to reveal which other actors had auditioned for the roles, she declined. “Well, they must have sucked then,” Gumbi said, and once again they all laughed. 
Vat ’n Sit is a comedy about Mpho and Thomas. Mpho is a rich girl, born into a Sepedi royal family. Mpho is a poor guy from Newcastle who has started a bakery which is going nowhere.
They are dating, and live together. Hence the title Vat ’n Sit, slang for “living in sin”. 
Produced by Black Brain Pictures (City Ses’ la, Ses’ Top la, Blame it on Fame) it stars Gumbi, Maphathe, Chumisa Khosa, Bexta Ndabalime, Christopher Kubheka and Nyembezi Kunene. 

It’s an all-star cast, if an underrated one. Between them, they have been in some of the finest shows produced in South Africa TV, including Yizo Yizo, Emzini weziNziswa, Intersexions and Rockville
Its creator, Mandla N, shares directing duties with Johnny Barbuzano and Krijay Govender. 
Mpho and Thomas’s relationship is a tough one because Mpho’s family hates him and won’t accept lobola from him for Mpho.
“They don’t think he’s right for their daughter,” Liopelo says. “She’s now torn between her lover and her family. Plus, her best friend hates him too.”

Despite the disapproval of Mpho’s loved ones, they are trying to make their relationship work. “It’s a frustrating time for Mpho because she wants her family to also see what she sees in Thomas. But then I guess it doesn’t help that he doesn’t have a job and Mpho has to provide him with everything.”

Liopelo has been in the industry for just over a decade, getting her breakout role in e.tv youth soapie, Backstage. She then got a role in Muvhango, before joining SABC2 comedy series Moferefere Lenyalong, alongside Patrick Shai.  
“I guess I am the go-to actress because of my previous work. But that being said, Mpho is very different from my previous roles. She’s a hardworking woman, is very serious and she brings home the bacon. Mpho is not the ditzy trophy wife I played on Moferefere,” says Liopelo. 

Trevor says his role is interesting because he plays a struggling man living with a successful woman. “He does feel a bit emasculated and what I love about this show is that it talks to issues that we see in South Africa every day. 
“We all know men who have partners who earn more than them and sadly, most of them feel emasculated with women who are emancipated. That’s what resonated with me, hence I took the role.” 
So while Vat ‘n Sit is a comedy, it looks at pertinent issues in society and then pokes fun at them. “It’s satire,” says Bexta, who plays Thomas’s friend, Abi, a baker. “And we can vouch that when people watch this show they’ll picture someone they know who is or has been in the same situation.” 

But, adds Trevor, it’s also about aspiration. “While it’s all good to laugh at this Thomas guy, a loser who’s always in a funny situation, he’s trying to better his life, to be something in life. Yes, Mpho may have paid for the stove, the flour and all the ingredients, but he’s doing what he can to be a worthy boyfriend to her and finally get the approval he wants.”
Judging from the one scene, there is potential for a solid comedy. 

The comic timing and chemistry between Liopelo and Trevor was good. It’s a pity we didn’t see the whole cast on set as that would have allowed me to gauge how the comedy will fare. 
Black Brain Production’s previous comedy, Ses’Top La, wasn’t impressive, yet with that said, they did a great job with City Ses’la, one of the best comedies of recent years. Will Vat ‘n Sit be a return to form?

 Catch Vat ’n Sit on eKasi+ and e.tv from Wednesday, April 16 at 9pm.

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