About Jeremy Daniel

Social Media Officer at the Baxter Theatre

Aurelio Martinez & Neo Muyanga live in concert: 5 April

Neo Muyanga & Aurelio Martinez in concert

Neo Muyanga & Aurelio Martinez in concert

Rising world-music star Aurelio Martínez jets into Cape Town on 5 April for one exclusive concert in the Baxter Concert Hall in collaboration with local composer and musician Neo Muyanga as part of the Rolex Mentors & Protégés Arts Initiative weekend.
Aurelio Martínez hails from Honduras and is regarded as one of the most important figures in the preservation of Garifuna culture, which is a fusion of African and Caribbean-Indian roots. The Garifuna community are the descendants of escaped slaves from Africa who intermarried with the indigenous people of St Vincent, and are now scattered across Central America.

Martínez’s influence extends beyond music as he works tirelessly to preserve and promote Garifuna culture. He is also the first black person to become a deputy in the National Congress of Honduras, which is the legislative branch of the Honduran Government.
His debut album in 2004, Garifuna Soul, was critically acclaimed and the influential New York radio show Afropop Worldwide rated it in the Top 10 albums of the year and proclaimed Martínez to be newcomer of the year.

At the same time, Neo Muyanga has developed a style of Mzansi music, which draws heavily on the melodies of Sotho and Zulu music. Muyanga burst onto the national stage with his first band, Blk Sonshine, which delivered an intoxicating mix of pop and soul to a country hungry for a crossover, unifying sound. Their hit song Born In A Taxi was the soundtrack to South African life in the late 90s.

On stage together for the first time, Muyanga and Martínez will deliver a heady cocktail of never-before-heard cross-cultural musical delights which ties in perfectly with the values of the Rolex programme. Every two years, Rolex brings artistic masters together with talented young artists for a year of creative collaboration in a one-to-one mentoring relationship in the fields of dance, film, literature, music, theatre, visual arts and – as of 2012 – architecture.

Bookings can be made through Computicket right here.

World-renowned artists come together for ‘A Unique Gathering: Rolex Mentors & Protégés’

One of the most important cultural events in the history of the Baxter Theatre is scheduled to take place over the first weekend in April, when three of the world’s most influential artists come together under the Rolex banner for “A Unique Gathering: Rolex Mentors and Protégés“.

The three-day event will feature Nobel prize-winning author Wole Soyinka, visual and theatre artist William Kentridge and world-renowned American opera, theatre and festival director Peter Sellars in a series of open workshops with the public where they will discuss their craft.
Poster
The Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative is a philanthropic programme which pairs gifted young artists with internationally recognized masters, sponsoring them to spend a year in a one-to-one mentoring relationship.

The gathering begins on the 5th of April with an open workshop with William Kentridge entitled Getting Started who will explore the origin of ideas and impulses and how they become artistic material. All the protégés will take part in this event.

Buy your tickets to Getting Started here.

At 8PM on Friday the 5th, Honduran singer and composer Aurelio Martinez will perform with local musicians, including Neo Muyanga in the Baxter Concert Hall. Martinez is a standard bearer of Garifuna culture, which fuses African and Caribbean-Indian roots and recently spent a year collaborating with Rolex Mentor Youssou N’Dour.

Buy your tickets for the concert here.

On Saturday afternoon, the program shifts to Artists on the Front Line, which unpacks the question of how artists respond to conflict. World-renowned American opera, theatre and festival director Peter Sellars, acclaimed Togolese dancer and choreographer Anani Sanouvi and groundbreaking Lebanese theatre artist Maya Zbib explore how art and culture contribute to a healthy society.

Buy your tickets for Artists on the Front Line here.

The weekend draws to a close on Saturday evening with Turning the world into material. All three mentors, Wole Soyinka, Peter Sellars and William Kentridge, take to the stage to discuss the “impulses behind the idea and the materialization of an impulse: How does the world come into your work?” Each of these iconic artists will respond to this question with reference to their own experiences.

Buy your tickets to Turning the World Into Material here.

From The Mouths Of Babes brings SA’s Jewish heritage to the stage

Fresh off the stage at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, From the mouths of babes showcases three extraordinarily talented women on the Baxter Stage who are able to educate, entertain and inspire audiences with their unique insights into what it means to be Jewish and South African in today’s world.

Sharon Spiegel-Wagner, Sivan Raphaely and Na’ami Gottlieb-Lieberman are all talented actors and singers who workshopped and created this production with director Malcolm Purkey. The reviews have been nothing short of outstanding.

We caught up with Sharon just before she boarded a plane to begin the Cape Town run.

Baxter Blog: How did the idea for this show come about?
Sharon Spiegel-Wagner: Sivan & I were getting tired of trying to fit a fixed concept of an English White South African identity. We felt that even though our roots may not necessarily be South African, we have lived a uniquely South African life & have been raised in this beautiful country in our own ways. Our Ashkenazi backgrounds may not represent a majority of South Africans but as women who were raised in South Africa, we contributed to South African life, society & sense of community.

We wanted to be ourselves- white Jewish English-speaking South African girls.

So we met up one day with Malcolm Purkey & said that we wanted to be authentic & portray this on stage. We wanted to give our lives and our stories a voice. A couple of meetings and workshops later with the addition of our third musketeer (Naami), and here we are!

BB: Is the show strictly for Jewish audiences or is there something in it for everyone?
SW: It’s for everyone! Initially we were afraid it would alienate other cultures since we are talking about our uniquely South African Jewish lives, but no!

Other cultures and groups have not only embraced us so warmly but have also commented on the universality of our cultural quirks.

In fact, we have made the piece inviting and accessible. Most of all, it’s honest and true and has a great sense of humanity-which brings people closer together.

BB: Do you think the Jewish experience in South Africa is under-reported? I imagine a lot of people don’t know this history.
SW: I think many of the smaller subcultures in South Africa are under-reported. I worry that communities stay isolated because of this & isolation breeds loneliness. I think it would be a great move towards living in a holistic society that one hears and takes interest in other cultures and the issues they face. We are so busy with politics that we forget to learn about one another, listen to each other & find out how we got to South Africa & what we bring to this nation.

BB: What kind of reaction to the work have you had?
SW: We have had great responses. For some, it’s not their cup of tea but that’s a matter of taste. You can’t like everything you see but on the whole it’s been mostly positive & embracing.

BB: Is it all traditional music or do you sing some contemporary as well?
SW: We sing traditional songs in different languages-Russian, Yiddish & Hebrew and the songs range from traditional to modern.

BB: What can audiences expect when they come to “From the Mouths of Babes”?
SW: They can expect a fun night out filled with laughter, beautiful music & pathos.

From the mouths of babes opens at the Baxter Theatre Centre on the 5th of December and runs until the 5th of January.

Click here for the Computicket link and price details.

Two extraordinary one-handers come to the Baxter in October

One of the hardest, yet most-rewarding forms of theatre to create is undoubtedly the one-person show. It’s intimate, challenging and is often a transformative experience for both performer and audience. The Baxter is thrilled to have not one, but two, great single-handers opening in October, brought to us by prolific writer / director Hennie van Greunen, one of South Africa’s most-acclaimed theatre voices.

Normality, starring Pedro Kruger is the story of one man’s struggle to overcome his physical disability and find a way to be in the world, while The Sewing Machine starring Sandra Prinsloo focuses on the life of an ageing woman who is trying to make peace with the changing nature of the country she lives in. The Baxter Blog caught up with Hennie van Greunen and put a few questions to him about both of these productions.

NORMALITY starring Pedro Kruger. Directed by Shirley Ellis, written by Hennie van Greunen. Golden Arrow Studio: 17, 19, 20, 26, 27,30 & 31st of October. Book at Computicket.

Baxter Blog: What inspired you to create Normality around this particular illness?

HvG: Three things: ONE: I grew up with a sister who was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. TWO: Whoopi Goldberg’s 1984 Broadway solo show sent one-person theatre in a completely new and exciting direction. In the show she does a disabled character and for me, as a 19 year old who grew up with a disabled sibling, that sketch particularly resonated in many places in myself that I had, up to that point not revisited. THREE: Pedro Kruger’s incredible talents as pianist, songwriter, actor and storyteller inspired me to write this one-man musical.

BB: How was it received when it played at the Edinburgh Festival?

HvG: It was received fantastically: we received five 5-star reviews and the first fringereview.com Hidden Gem Award.

BB: What can an audience expect from this production?

HvG: The way in which the character of Alex looks at himself and his world is incredibly un-PC, so the audience can expect to travel from hysterical laughter to profound sadness. Also, the play is about so much more than disability: show me the person who does not have some or the other issue with his/her body and I’ll show you a liar. So Alex is a part of all of us.

THE SEWING MACHINE, starring Sandra Prinsloo. Written by Rachelle Greef and translated by Hennie van Greunen. Golden Arrow Studio: 23, 24 October & 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9 & 10 November. Book at Computicket.

BB: What made you decide to do a translation of this production?

HvG: I believe in Story like other people believe in Religion. I have a firm belief that the key to understanding and peace lies in our shared humanity which we express best through story. Also South African theatre has so many stories that are diverse, passionate and human – a commodity that many first world countries have lost. I would love to see SA established as a country of origin of world-class theater and we proved this at the 2012 Edinburgh Festival Fringe when the SA season, especially Mies Julie and The Sewing Machine, were the talk of the festival.

BB: What do you imagine life to be like for aging white people grappling with a new reality?
HvG: I think one should be careful not to generalise about old white people, instead let’s look at old people of all races in all parts of the world: the unwillingness/inability to change, to shake prejudices reinforced by a lifetime, the fear of loneliness and the feelings of being left behind in a world where politics, technology and social mores & values change rapidly and continually.

BB: How has it been working with the incredible Sandra Prinsloo?
HvG: Working with an actor of Sandra’s experience and talent is a joy: we also tend to feel the same way about the work that we do together. It is incredible to work with someone who immediately knows which direction we’re heading and who can give me, as the director, exactly the picture that I saw in my head. We worked together again on the 2011 hit ‘Janneman’ and there are a few more projects that we want to do in the future.

James Ngcobo speaks about Boesman and Lena and his love of directing

James Ngcobo is one of the most inspirational people you’re ever likely to meet. When the director of Boesman and Lena begins to talk about the work he is doing and his process, he is transformed into a passionate torrent of thoughts and ideas which he sprinkles liberally over an audience.

Ngcobo is resurrecting Boesman and Lena because ‘there is no sell-by date on great theatre’. He believes passionately in the work of Fugard, and argues that every year, the Russians do Chekhov, the Americans resurrect Tennessee Williams, but only here do we have a problem with revering our great writers.

Ngcobo is a self-taught theater afficionado and a man who has done almost everything there is to do on a South African stage. He learned from some of South Africa’s great directors and he is keen to pass on his philosophy of directing.

“The best work is done in rooms where there is joy”, says Ngcobo in another of his tweet-worthy quotes. For this production, he’s working with a dynamite cast of Elton Landrew, Quanita Adams and Charley Azade and believes firmly in the powers of collaboration. “The director is no longer the god in the room, those days are long gone.”

He also finds it easy to ask for help or a second opinion from people in the theatre community that he respects and his work reflects that inclusive approach.

Boesman and Lena is a story that Ngcobo is passionate about. He explains how South Africa has the highest number of immigrants in the world and how critically important it is to deal with the issue. But instead of creating a political drama, he’s used this show to create something personal. “At its heart, Fugard’s classic is a love story. Lena is a dreamer, she wants a better world while Boesman is a pragmatist. He’s wearing an armour of accepting that things cannot change, while Lena just longs for him to hold her,” he explains.

Ngcobo’s directing strength is in the details. He works on touches, small notes that the audience might not even notice but that all add to the integrity and weight of the piece. For instance, Ngcobo observes that Lena, in this production, is Muslim. That’s the kind of thing that may not be on the page, but is significant for the actress who is playing Lena. For Ngcobo, Lena is not simply a homeless woman. She was a daughter once too, maybe a sister. She is not defined by her surroundings alone.

Fundamentally, he operates with a “love of telling stories about the people who I share a land with”. And he knows intrinsically what is that audiences want to see. They don’t need theory, they don’t want care if it’s Dadaism or realism, they just want to see heart and soul on the stage.

Boesman and Lena runs at the Baxter Theatre Centre from the 5th to the 29th of September. Tickets range from R100 to R150 and are available now at Computicket. You can book right here.

Brett Bailey on medEia: “A straight drama is seldom enough for me”

Third World Bunfight’s medEia, one of the most astonishing pieces of visual theatre/storytelling to come out of post-apartheid South Africa comes to the Baxter for a short run in mid-September. In 2010, the Mail & Guardian newspaper declared it to be ‘best production of the decade’ and the show has won extensive awards all around the world.

In 2012, the production has been transformed from a site-specific format to the more traditional theatre stage to accomodate an extensive European tour. We caught up with Brett Bailey on the eve of the tour to find out more about the production.

Why are you bringing back medEia at this time, or did it never really go away?
Brett Bailey: I love this work. The text is really lyrical, evocative and poetic. It is studded with the lyrics of 80’s pop songs, and locates this dark classical tragedy firmly in the 21st century. I find it works really well with the themes that I explore: the fractious relationship between Africa and Europe, immigration, and ritual. I have been trying to get this staged in Europe for a couple of years already. I was hoping to restage the rambling site-specific version that I made at Spier in 2005 (elected best production of the decade by the Mail and Guardian), but with the cuts to European cultural budgets, such large-scale productions are too costly. So I have adapted the play for stage, and am loving it.

This subject matter seems to never go away, as witnessed by our recent Purgatorio here. What is it about this story that continues to resonate?
Brett Bailey: These ancient stories that survive in our consciousness for millennia have strong universal threads. The story tells of the human yearning for freedom and a better life; of love and betrayal; of jealousy and terrible revenge. We can identify with these emotions, and in Greek tragedy they are portrayed on a vast, archetypal scale.

What can Baxter audiences expect from the new production?
Brett Bailey: A straight drama is seldom enough for me. I always like to knit together several genres and influences. In this production I work with a smoky jazz concert ambiance (brought alive with the sensual drumming of ace drummer Frank Paco), ritual, spoken word artistry, and drama. The fusion gives this dark tragedy a cool, funky feel.

I live this contrast of violence and intensity with beauty and groove.

Tell us a little about your amazing upcoming tours and why you think European audiences are so smitten with this work.
Brett Bailey: medEia will tour Zurich and Basel before we open at the Baxter, and then hit Berlin, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and 5 other Dutch cities. I reckon there is interest in this work because there is a good deal of curiosity in Africa at present, and immigration is a hot topic in Europe as the left and right wing political factions battle to gain ground within a context of collapsed economies, unemployment, a huge influx of asylum seekers and the resulting xenophobia. These are the themes I explore in the work.
Also, my works have been touring extensively in Europe for the past ten years, and have become collectible items for festival directors.

What should someone in the audience do /read to prepare for the production?
Brett Bailey: It would be good to read a summary of the Medea plot – scan it on Wikipedia. The text is pretty fragmented, so an overall grasp on the story would be enriching. Otherwise just come with your imagination and an open mind.

Live drumming with the amazing Frank Paco? Wow…What’s the thinking behind that…
As I mentioned, Oscar van Woensel’s script is spangled with the lyrics of pop songs, and the text has a wonderful musicality. I am first and foremost a visual theatre maker, but I decided to start from the sound of the text this time, and really to make the work a rich audial experience. I wanted a lazy, lounge sound to underpin the entire show, and when I thought of the drummer I’d most like to work with, it was obviously Frank. Never thought he’d oblige, but sometimes you got to go out on a limb: he accepted immediately…
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MedEia runs at the Baxter Theatre Centre for 5 shows only, from the 12th to the 15th of September. Tickets are R120 each and can be booked here. Or call 021 680 3962 to enquire about block bookings.

The Black Ties bring soul to the stage with Vodacom Soul Classics

One of Cape Town’s best-loved musical outfits, The Black Ties, is coming home with ‘Vodacom presents Soul Classics‘ a show that celebrates the glory of soul music. With hits from Marvin Gaye, Lionel Richie and Cee-Lo Green, a full band including a brass section, three backing singers and some of the Cape’s hottest young stars as guests, this promises to be one of the musical highlights of the year.

We caught up with the Ties in-between rehearsals.

Baxter Blog: What have The Black Ties been up to lately?
Keeno Lee: We have been planning and preparing for the Soul Classics show, doing a few gigs here and there and pushing our latest single, “Jump.”

BB: This Baxter show is a big step for you, isn’t it?
Chad Saaiman: It is, to a certain extent. It’s more of a homecoming, as myself and Lloyd did one of our 1st big shows here a decade ago and Keeno’s 1st show was here too before that. So we’re back.

BB: What can people expect?
Lloyd Jansen: They can expect a show filled songs that evoke memories and create moments, whether new or old. Along with the Black Ties trademark humour and soulful, harmonious interpretations.

BB: Why did you decide to go this route?
CS: It’s what we do naturally, so it made sense for us to approach it this way. People feel the authenticity in a performance and a real connection to a song and lyric.

Check out this video of some of their earlier work:

BB: Who else will be joining you onstage for the Vodacom Soul Classics?
ALL: Sasha-Lee, EBI from Good Hope FM and Lucy Tops. As well as a 6-piece band with 3 female backing vocalists. All incredibly talented individuals.

BB: Do you think soul music is still relevant today and still has an audience?
Keeno Lee: Yes. Soul music is music from the heart, and it appeals to most audiences, everybody has had a relationship and has experienced either heartache or happiness in that regard.

Chad Saaiman: Soul music is often about hope, and it’s real. It’s as it makes us believe, if we have forgotten. It’s what my mom and dad listened to. It’s musical storytelling at it’s best.

Lloyd Jansen: Definitely. It’s evident by the way soulful house music has been received, as many of the biggest hits in the country right now have an element of soul in either the chords, progressions or vocal delivery.

Vodacom Soul Classics runs from the 16th to the 21st of July. You can book tickets for next week’s performance right here.

Nicky Rebelo: ‘Like Shakespeare or Van Gogh, Bosman will never be irrelevant’

Nicky Rebelo is an actor, director and writer who has spent much of his career thinking and writing about Herman Charles Bosman, the mercurial writer who’s work still resonates in a South Africa that is vastly different to the one he lived in. Not only is Bosman one of South Africa’s greatest short-story writers, but his life story is the stuff of legend. Rebelo’s latest work, starring the astonishing David Butler, looks at the short time that Bosman spent teaching in the Groot Marico and the profound effect it had on his life.

Baxter Blog: Why Bosman? Why now? Is it still relevant for South Africans?
Nicky Rebelo: Bosman was one of the first South African writers, writing in English to stress the importance of writing from a South African point of view. He saw himself first as a South African and an African and did not concern himself with the narrow cultural distinctions, which some people love to hang on to. Bosman’s writing is appreciated today because it is very good writing. It is true art. True art is relevant for all ages. Just like Shakespeare or Mozart or Van Gogh will never be irrelevant, so too does Bosman’s writing remain relevant.

BB: Is this the first production to ever focus just on this period of his life?
NR: Yes it is.

BB: How did you come up with this production and how long has it been germinating?
NR: This production was a natural follow up to my first Bosman play A Touch of Madness, which was performed all over the country from 1998 to 2008. David sourced the material in order to do a performance at the unveiling of the replica school building at which Bosman taught in 1926 in Groot Marico, I then adapted and shaped the material to create the show A Teacher in the Bushveld, which premiered at the 2009 Grahamstown Festival.

BB: What do you think Bosman would have made of the 21st Century media environment?
NR: I’ve no idea. All I’m certain of is that whaterever he would have said about it would have been highly original and extremely witty.

BB: What’s the key to a successful one=man show?
NR: Holding the audience spellbound, which requires an excellent text, brilliant direction from a director who understands rythm, tone, music and pace and a very good actor.

BB: Where to from here? A movie? A musical?
NR: I am at present working on the film script based on Bosman’s life and work.

A Teacher In The Bushveld runs in the Golden Arrow Studio until 3 July. Book through Computicket.

Daniel & Matthew Pencer on creating the soundtrack to Mies Julie

During the winter of 2010, the director of the upcoming Mies Julie, Yael Farber, began frequenting Le Depanneur Cafe in Montreal where two brothers, Daniel and Matthew Pencer, were performing a weekly 2-hour musical improvisation. Their idea was to “accompany the space, giving less of a performance, more of ‘existing in the room’. This musical concept resonated particularly well with Farber and the style of theatre she creates, and when she suggested a collaboration on her forthcoming production ofKadmos, a strong creative partnership was born.

The partnership was so successful that Farber invited the Pencer brothers to Cape Town in order to develop a musical soundscape for the forthcoming production of Mies Julie, now in development at the Baxter.

Matthew Pencer was originally a drummer, until he began doing sound design on computers, for radio and mixing. He explains that “At one point I began incorporating drum machines into my setup, basically a programmable synthesizer. The more I played, the more I got interested in programming and began experimenting with my computer as an instrument. Eventually I became obsessed with the potential of using various technologies for music.”

Younger brother Daniel Pencer has been studying the clarinet and sax for 17 years. He has “a Bachelor’s degree in Jazz performance at the University of Toronto where I studied music ranging from Balinese Gamelan to classical clarinet to West African drumming. After all that, I continued my studies in India, learning North Indian classical music on the Clarionette and Bansuri.”

Creating music for a new theatrical work brings its own challenges. Due to the fact that the work is always changing and morphing, ‘the sonic accompaniment’ needs to keep up. “The music we create is largely improvised at first and our challenge is to recreate what Miss Farber thinks is appropriate for her vision,” says Matthew. “It takes a lot of patience and a keen understanding of how each scene is transitioning into the next. Being aware of the character’s moods and emotional narrative is integral to our process of creating sound accompaniment.”

The musical team is enhanced by the presence of Mama NoFirst, a Xhosa throat-singer from the Eastern Cape who performs as part of the Ngoqoko Cultural Group. The Smithsonian Folkways site explains that “Throat-singing, a guttural style of singing or chanting, is one of the world’s oldest forms of music.In throat-singing, a singer can produce two or more notes simultaneously through specialized vocalization technique taking advantage of the throat’s resonance characteristics.”

Watch this video as an example:

How do the Pencers feel about working with South African artists? “It’s been a real pleasure meeting such wonderfully warm people! The knowledge that Mama Nofirst has shared with us so far is invaluable and what an incredible musical force! The cast has been welcoming and encouraging. It’s an honour to work with such talented artists in such an intense theatre process. What can you say about Miss Farber? She takes no prisoners and her unrelenting work ethic is an inspiration. Her encouragement and straight up directing style allows us to work efficiently and as a team to propel all of our hard work into the devastating beauty that she is envisioning.”

Finally, they were asked what the soundtrack to Mies Julie would be like….”imagine Morton Feldman meets Yamataka Eye meets Mama Nofirst”, and if that means nothing to you, then you’ll just have to come and see the show!

You can listen a snippet of the Pencer’s previous experimental improvised work here: http://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F24086639&show_artwork=true

Mies Julie runs at the Grahamstown Festival from the 2nd to the 4th of July. (Book online here). It runs at the Baxter from 11 July to 26 July. (Book online here). The run continues at the Edinburgh Festival, followed by the Pretoria State Theatre.

Mies Julie: ‘exploring the national within the realm of the personal’

Award-winning South African director Yael Farber is currently in rehearsal at the Baxter Theatre Centre, creating her first new South African work since the international touring hit Molora, an adaptation of the Oresteia Trilogy.

Farber’s works have toured extensively over the last ten years, earning her a reputation for hard-hitting, controversial works of the highest artistic standard.

In 2012, she has chosen to adapt the August Strindberg classic Miss Julie to a South African setting. She took a break during rehearsals to speak to us about the work.

Baxter Blog (BB): Why did you select Miss Julie as a piece to rework in a South African context?
Yael Farber (YF): Strindberg’s original Miss Julie was a piece that created great controversy in its time. It remains a compelling examination of the power dynamics between classes and genders. It struck me as a good palette upon which to look at some of the emerging issues that exist between South Africans. The shifts as well as the stagnations of who holds the power. Power comes in many forms. In the economic sense, this is intrinsically tied up with who owns the land and how this has failed to be addressed in the emerging new vision for the country. I wanted to create a work that captures this and the other subtle forms of complicated colonizing that occurred as a result of apartheid. Miss Julie allows me explore what Greek Tragedy offers: The palette to explore the national within the realm of the personal and domestic.

BB: You’ve adapted a number of works during your career, including Shakespeare and Greek tragedies. What’s the hardest thing about adapting an existing piece of work?
YF: What to mess with and what to retain as the spine of the audience’s experience. Moving along the track of the original plot and characters’ arcs, offers a powerful series of common reference points upon which you let the audience move with you. But turning these expectations on their heads is also crucial to an adaptation – otherwise it becomes too pat. Subverting expectations based on the original should not be done just for effect – or it can be terribly contrived. These choices have to come from a place of integrity, aligned with what you are trying to say with the work. Making these choices can be the most challenging part of an adaptation.

BB: Miss Julie has a special place in the Baxter’s history, mainly due to the barriers it challenged in the 80’s. What can SA audiences expect this time around?
YF: Sexual relations across the colour line – while still interesting and/or shocking for some – is hardly the shocker (not to mention law breaker! – in South Africa that it once was. I don’t believe that this is the compelling point of a MISS JULIE in contemporary South Africa. Land issues, ownership, power, sexuality, mothers, memories. These are what remain as shrapnel from our history. The battle of these primal issues in a kitchen over a single night between a farm labourer and his Baas’s daughter – is what MIES JULIE has its hand in. Kitchens are places of steam and heat and making and devouring and talking. We aim for this MIES JULIE to bring the heat to the fore in all senses.

BB: How has living in Canada changed or grown your vision and the way you direct? (if at all)
YF: There is always the growth one incurs by being displaced. Its the hardest but most powerfully challenging experience to place yourself outside your context. I have gained great perspectives from this experience. I have enjoyed a certain dignity that theatre is afforded in North America. But what I am most affected by is how unique South Africa is. Being away and creating in other places only serves to high light why I love and appreciate where i come from and the artists that this country has wrought. There is an intimacy and powerful connection that ties us together here. This is a post-traumatic society. Yes. Its even a present-traumatic society. It makes theatre – GOOD theatre – a necessity. Like in Ancient Greece. Not to attend theatre in ancient Greece was illegal because it made you a better citizen to face yourself in those arenas. South Africa needs theatre – powerful, brave theatre – in the same way those soldiers returning from war to Athens needed it. As artists in South Africa – we need to rise to the challenge of creating such theatre. Because its needed here. Its by being away that one’s vision for this grows and the hunger to continue to answer this call remains.

BB: Tell us a little about the performers who will be appearing in this production?
YF: The three actors who play the leads (there are no extras) are powerful in their own rights. Thoko Ntshinga is a veteran performer. Originally part of the Market Theatre and Barney Simon’s searing productions of the 70s and 80s, Thoko has lived and performed through the crucial trajectory in SA. She is a powerhouse performer who brings her capacity to the role of Christine. John is played by Bongile Mantsai, and Miss Julie by Hilda Cronje. These two potent performers bring the passion, emotion and sensuality that this piece demands.
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Mies Julie runs at the Grahamstown Festival from the 2nd to the 4th of July. (Book online here). It runs at the Baxter from 11 July to 26 July. (Book online here). The run continues at the Edinburgh Festival, followed by the Pretoria State Theatre.