Who’s Upstairs: Michael-John Phillip

All's Well That Ends Well - MJ PhillipMichael-John Phillip stars in All’s Well That Ends Well on at Alexander Upstairs 2nd April.

Michael John Philip Home town?
The Mother City has always been home. Although I did do a 5 year stint in Joburg, but I’d rather not talk about that…

Tell us a little more about your show?
It’s a history-based comedy panel-show. Along with 6 rambunctious panellists, we take a wander through history’s interesting and often bizarre alleyways. We cover everything from the dancing plague of 1518 to Peter the Great’s bear waiters. There are 6 rounds in the show including “Who am I Talking About’ where panellists are given a list of obscure clues about a very famous figure and have to figure out who it is. Another round is ‘You Can Quote Me on That’ where panelists need to figure out which historical figure said what.

And what’s next on the cards for you?
Hopefully a high pocket pair, because I’m already a few chips behind in this game of Hold’em.

And the project you’re dreaming of?
I’m very keen to put a sketch show together. Possibly a show that sketches the history of earth, from primordial ooze to Neanderthal to Donald Trump. As you can quickly tell, it’s not necessarily a story of progress.

How did you get into theatre(or music/burlesque/magic/etc)?
I got into theatre at varsity when I joined an improv club called Adlib. I then made a few films before returning to the theatre for this show.

Dinner with any two figures from history: who would you invite and what would you serve them?
Favourite question so far… It’s also a very difficult question. My first guest would be Aristophanies, one of the great comic playwrights of his day. Not only could we talk about what life was like in Athens in the 5th and 4th centuries BCE, but we’d also have a good lol. My second historical figure would be Autshumato, also known as Harry the Strandloper. He was a Khoi chief of the Garinghaicona tribe who became an interpreter for the Dutch when they arrived to the Cape. I imagine he’d have some pretty interesting stories to tell.

Because I can’t just leave it at those two, I’ll tell you missed out on the invite: Baruch Spinoza, Robert Burns, Albert Camus, PG Wodehouse, Philo of Alexandria, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Charles Darwin.

For dinner we’d have pizza. Plain and simple. And lots of red wine.

Favourite spot in Cape Town (besides Alexander Bar, obviously)?
I spend quite a bit of time chasing pub quizzes around town. So pretty much any spot that’s got a pub quiz.

What excites you about theatre (or music/burlesque/magic/etc)?
I personally quite enjoy the immediate feedback of being on stage. It’s quite exciting as you’re able to feed off the energy, plus you learn pretty quickly if an idea is funny or not.

What mistakes have you made and learned the most from?
I once warmed a bowl of soup in the microwave and then tried to carry it barehanded. I now know that you need a cloth or as Eddie Izzard would suggest, “you’ll need a tray”… In the world of theatre though, I’ve learnt never to open a show in which you will be speaking to the audience by pretending you didn’t notice them at first.

Who do you think people should be talking about?
I’m not very cool, so I don’t know any of the artists who are going to be the ‘next big thing’… If this helps, I saw ‘Sizwe Banzi is Dead’ last year, and that was brilliant and a very important piece of theatre. I also saw ‘Death of a Colonialist’ with Jamie Bartlett and that was great.