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John van de Ruit PDF Print E-mail

John van de Ruit (1975-) was born in Durban and educated at Michaelhouse and the University of Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal ) where he completed his Masters Degree (Cum laude ) in Drama and Performance studies. Van de Ruit 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. He has also 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. He has also starred in an independent film called, I Shot Lucy and an ABC docudrama Global Health, due to be screened in America. In 2013 he appeared in "The Rise of the Insanity League", a sketch comedy show directed by Greig Coetzee. Together with actor Ben Voss he received the Johannesburg Naledi award for best comedy performance for Green Mamba (2004). Most recently, together with Ben Voss, he has been nominated for best performance in a comedy or revue for his performance in Black Mamba.

As a writer, John van de Ruit 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. The long awaited Mamba sequel opened in July 2005 when Black Mamba premiered at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown to both critical and popular acclaim. Black Mamba won the Durban Theatre Award (2005) for Best New Script. From May 2006, Black Mamba toured to The Liberty Theatre in Johannesburg, The National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and returned to the Heritage Theatre in Hillcrest before it embarked on a tour to London.

His first novel, Spud, published by Penguin Books and launched nationally in September 2005, became an instant bestseller. The book was also selected for the Exclusive Books Publishers Choice 2005. In 2005 Van De Ruit was a resident artist at The Rhaboobeah Hilton. Spud - The Madness Continues, the sequel to Spud was published by Penguin Books in 2007. In 2009, the "pen-ultimate" book in his Spud series, Spud - Learning to Fly, was published. The final book in the Spud series, Spud: Exit, Pursued by a Bear, was released in 2012.

Spud - The Movie, was released in November 2010, produced by Rogue Star Productions, and stars an ensemble cast including the likes of John Cleese, and local theatre performers and personalities. The second film (based on the second book), Spud 2: The Madness Continues, was released in 2013. A third movie (based on the third book), Spud 3: Learning to Fly, followed in 2013.


Extract from Spud

After a whispered countdown we sprinted as one across the rugby field (the most dangerous part of the expedition) and into the bushes near the bog stream (the stream that encircles the grounds). We then climbed through a barbed wire fence and suddenly the dam was directly in front of us, dead calm and beautiful in the moonlight. One by one we slid into the cool water (apart from Gecko who couldn’t wet his plaster cast), feeling the soft mud squelch between our toes. We swam in complete silence until Mad Dog and Rambo tried to dunk each other. This soon turned into a mad dunking fight with everybody trying to dunk the next person. I managed to half-dunk Simon who retaliated by holding me under the water for about three minutes. Suddenly Boggo hissed us to silence. Across the far side of the dam, a torchlight flickered across the path. And then another and another.  We all stood stock-still in the water, a cold fear creeping over us. Silence. There was a clap of thunder and the wind began to gust with an eerie whistling moan. And then the dogs began to bark .

As one we launched ourselves out of the water and bolted for the fence and the rugby field. The guards must have released their dogs because suddenly their barking and growling was all around us. Rambo was shouting and Mad Dog was trying to shoot the dogs with his catapult. It sounded like he hit one because there was a horrific squeal. Despite the cast and sling Gecko leaped over the barbed wire fence like a springbok and scorched through the bushes like a man possessed. We all galloped across the rugby field, through the rose garden, into the crypt, up the stairs, into the chapel, back down the aisle, up more stairs and into the gallery. Finally through the window, along the roof, through the dormitory window and into my bed, muddy feet and all. And then – dead silence, barring the sound of heavy breathing, the odd sniff from Gecko’s bed and the rumble of the thunderstorm. In the distance we could hear the guards whistling for their dogs. After about five minutes of silent panic, there was laughter and excited chatter. We all knew that we were safe, we’d made it, and we hadn’t been bust. Excited personal accounts of the adventure flew around the dormitory, stories of dog chases, each more frightening than the last. By the time it got round to Rambo’s turn the guard dogs made the Hound of the Baskervilles look as threatening as a three-legged poodle with false teeth. Gecko was convinced that a savage German shepherd had bitten him on the arse. After we all inspected his bum with the aid of Vern’s torch, it was decided that he had fallen foul of Mad Dog’s catapult and had not been gored by a rectum-eating dog. Mad Dog denied the charge and Gecko refused to believe it had been a stone. It was only after about half an hour of wild storytelling that we realised that we were short by one member. Fatty was missing. Rambo reckoned he had been caught by the guards, Simon said he was probably hiding somewhere. We tried to remember where we last saw him. I remembered trying to dunk him in the dam but after that.

Mad Dog offered to go and find him, but once again Rambo insisted that we all go. Poor Gecko’s eyes nearly popped out at the thought of having to repeat the process. For the second time we scrambled out of the window and onto the now very slippery tin roof and there we stopped. Our mission was complete. Well, nearly. Vern’s torch lit up a gigantic backside half-covered by shredded blue underpants sticking out of the chapel window. Fatty had got stuck coming back through the window. (Not sure why he was reversing through the window in the first place.) After some hushed cackling and a few cruel comments, we set about trying to free Fatty. After the seven of us pulled his legs (excuse the pun) for some time, Mad Dog decided that the only way to free Fatty was to push him forward back into the chapel (work that one out). Unfortunately, the big guy just wouldn’t budge. With every push and prod Fatty groaned in pain and to make matters worse, it began to pour with rain. An emergency dormitory meeting was held to solve the Fatty problem. Mad Dog offered to rip the entire window out. Simon offered up his hair gel to lubricate Fatty and slide him out. Mad Dog suggested tying a rope to Fatty’s foot and then attaching the other end of the rope to the school bus, which would drive off pulling Fatty out. After exhausting all other options it was decided that we would work in shifts, two people per shift and the rest would sleep. Myself and Vern took the first shift.


2005. Spud. Johannesburg: Penguin Books.

2007. Spud - The Madness Continues... Johannesburg: Penguin Books.

2009. Spud - Learning to Fly. Johannesburg: Penguin Books

2012. Spud: Exit, Pursued by a Bear. Johannesburg: Penguin Books.


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