Judges centerstage in version of British TV show

Inspired by the success of frump-to-famous Susan Boyle on “Britain’s Got Talent,” South Africans are flocking to auditions for the country’s inaugural version of the show, set to air on SABC2 in August.

But so far, it’s the judges who are in the spotlight — and for all the wrong reasons.

At last week’s auditions in Johannesburg, Ian von Memerty, the actor, musician and writer who co-hosts the South African version of “Strictly Come Dancing” lost his cool with fellow judge Randall Abrahams, who was previously an arbiter on M-Net’s “Pop Idols.”

Abrahams seemed about to launch into one of his characteristically scathing criticisms about 22-year-old fruit vendor Taelo Mathabatha‘s recitation of a poem titled “Positive Thoughts About Poverty,” but before he could get a word out Von Memerty exploded.

“Yes, yes, Mr. Cynical. Just shove it in a box for two minutes. This guy had the courage to come and stand on the stage and bare his soul to us, and you want to stomp on it. That’s not acceptable,” Von Memerty raged.

He then told Mathabatha: “I don’t think your poem was all that great, but for your courage, I want to have two yeses in your backpack when you leave here.”

The show’s third judge, DJ Shado Twala, obliged, giving Mathabatha the nod to the next round.

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