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 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.