THEATRE PREGNANT WITH PROMISE
Daneel van der Walt - Mar 5th, 20:23
Theatre pregnant with promise
Oscar Wilde said, “I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” Is this why we drag ourselves off the couch, put on our best pair of jeans and haul ourselves off through traffic to watch adults pretending to be people they are not? Absolutely.
In its infancy, 2013 has already blessed Cape Town’s stages with The Three Little Pigs, Die Suidooster Fees, the Maynardville Open-Air double bill and the Improv Fest. But brace yourselves, theatre lovers, as we are heading into a couple of months pregnant with promise, and bursting with young talent. From young directors, young performers, original and fresh work from new, exciting theatre makers to new spaces … it’s as though we’re celebrating the Mayans being wrong with youthful abandon and a new start.
New space – Alexander Bar
The latest addition to Cape Town’s theatrical venues can be found at the Alexander Bar upstairs venue in Strand Street, owned by prolific playwright Nicholas Spagnoletti and software engineer Edward van Kuik, and run by self-proclaimed “theatre geek” Jon Keevy.
Due to the high turnover of new shows, audiences are spoilt for musical choice. Watch out for Buckfever Underground (11 March), Shannon Hope and Dividable Grand (20 March), Tape Hiss and Sparkle and Friends (5 April) as well as Siya and friends, who pay tribute to old singers during a night cheekily called Dead Bitches (6 April).
On the comical side, The Minnie and Johnson Show (8–9 April), and Brent Palmer’s Bench (13–16 April) are my favourites. After a very successful run at the Kalk Bay Theatre (another one of my favourite venues in Cape Town!), Brent Palmer and Adrian Collins return as Hendry and Denver with witty writing and phenomenal acting. Not to mention Internationale de Theatre Jacques Lecoq-trained comic Gaëtan Schmid in The Dog’s Bollocks (21–23 March).
Alexander Bar also offers an open mic evening, called Play Things, where new talent can bring original work, be it music, writing, poems, basically anything that begs a stage. Join them on the first day of every month. www.alexanderbar.co.za
Young directors: Master Harold and the Boys
The Fugard Theatre is putting on Athol Fugard’s Master Harold and the Boys in March. It’s directed by Kim Kerfoot, winner of the Emerging Theatre Directors Bursary in 2011, and stars Alex Middlebrook as Hally, Themba Mchunu as Willie, and Tshamano Sebe as Sam. Set in 1950, the play is about the friendship between a 17-year-old boy and his two servants, and despite the fact that the play is set during the apartheid era, its themes – as is usually the case with Fugard’s work – focus on what happens to the individual within a society that functions through prejudice, and how this influences basic human rights.
At the age of 27, Kim is already working on his second Athol Fugard piece. Statements After an Arrest under the Immorality Act, with Bo Petersen, Jeroen Kranenberg and Malefane Mosuhli, was his first and had Athol Fugard himself recommend a run of the play at the Fugard Theatre. Kim confides: “Master Harold is one of my favourites. I think it’s part of the classical canon of South African plays.” Kim is also grateful for the support received from Athol Fugard: “I think one of his greatest skills is making people feel comfortable around him.” Asked about the relevance of the play in today’s society, Kim says: “Great plays, written by good playwrights, will always translate, regardless of the period.” This begs one to see what the voice of the next generation will make of the prejudice of our past.
Artscape is bringing back Special Thanks to Guests from Afar in April (9–16). Written by Nicholas Spagnoletti and directed by Matthew Wild, it stars Nicholas Dallas, Chi Mhende and Gideon Lombaard. When two South Africans attend a wedding in Germany, their rekindling of past friendships leads to the inevitable misunderstanding and rehashing of old fights. Add to this the groom’s brother (Lombaard), ze German, and the result is heart-warming, witty and beautiful. Lombaard is the one to watch – he has been making huge strides in a very short time.
Another group of thespians who grace Cape Town with excellence are the self-funded Mechanicals. Visit their website at www.themechanicals.info
Meanwhile, the Baxter is hosting the Zabalaza Festival (until 23 March) for a third year running. Zabalaza, meaning “to strike”, is headed by three actors: Thami Mbongo, Zoleka Helesi and Bongile Mantsai. It’s an important festival, offering guidance to the young and disadvantaged, as well as introducing a wider audience to theatre. This kind of work is essential to the survival and growth of theatre, as young actors are our future. As Dario Fo said: “A theatre, a literature, an artistic expression that does not speak for its own time has no relevance.”
Contemporary theatre: Rainbow Scars and Panic
“Firmly planted on the political pulse of our country with sharp, fast-paced dialogue” is how Rafiek Mammon describes the work of Mike van Graan. Keeping theatre current, Van Graan offers Rainbow Scars at Artscape (25 April–5 May). At last year’s National Arts Festival his Just Business won a Standard Bank Ovation Award. Now audiences can look forward to a play about the challenges that we face in our relationships – Rainbow Scars is contemporary South African theatre at its best.
Another unstoppable theatre dynamo is Siv Ngesi. His last one-man show, Race Card, based on Simon Kilpatrick’s The Racist’s Guide to the People of South Africa, sold out at the 2012 National Arts Festival. Siv’s Panic (Artscape 29 May–8 June) is all about climate change. One can only imagine what this fast-paced, energetic performer will have to say about Mother Nature.
New co-operation: Otello
Commemorating Verdi’s 200th birth year, six opera companies from the Southern Hemisphere have joined forces to bring the Italian composer’s masterpiece Otello to Artscape (6–13 April). Boasting our very own Matthew Wild as assistant director to Australian Simon Phillips, and South African soprano Sarah-Jane Brandon as Desdemona, this ambitious venture will premiere on home soil before setting off to Brisbane. For matriculants to note: Shakespeare’s Othello is the prescribed 2013 matric literature setwork, and learners can attend the final dress rehearsal and performances and meet the cast and creative team. For more information on Otello for 2013 Matriculants contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Last on my list of productions for the season, is what promises to bring out the teenager in all of us. Jersey Boys, the musical, returns to our shores after an 11-week run in Singapore. Based on the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, Jersey Boys features songs like “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man” and covers the band’s history and the difficulties they endured. The dynamic all-South African cast, according to every single review, made us proud – and as of 19 June you can go to Artscape to find out why.
So, intrepid theatre folk, exciting times lie ahead! Gird your loins; steady your nerves – this year is set to take your breath away.
Daneel van der Walt is a Cape Town-based actress, last seen in Francesco Nassimbeni’s Everything is Boring and Juliet Jenkin’s Big Girl, her first one-woman show. Passionate about everything theatre, Daneel also enjoys long walks on the beach, Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain – especially if there’s a dry towel waiting on the other end.