PETER TROMP spoke to Marcel Meyer whose production company A M Productions is staging ‘The Little Mermaid’ for the young ones this holiday at the Baxter Theatre.
What ignited your love of the arts, and how did you pursue a career in the entertainment biz subsequently?
I can’t remember a time when I haven’t wanted to be involved in the performing arts. The first time the spark was ignited was when I was three years old and went to the circus for the first time. At the age of 13 I began my training in dramatic art at Pro Arte, the Pretoria High School for the Performing Arts after which I obtained a B-Tech Degree in Musical Theatre from the Pretoria Technikon.
Tell us about ‘The Little Mermaid’. What can audiences look forward to with the production?
This production of ‘The Little Mermaid’ is a musical retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved fairy tale and audiences can look forward to stellar performances by some of South African’s top musical theatre actor/singers, sumptuous costumes, a very clever set design and some beautiful puppets – in short a magical theatre experience for young and old.
There has been a few casting changes with the production since its Canal Walk run. Tell us about these new additions and how it has changed the dynamic of the show.
We’ve got a new Mermaid, the beautiful young Thalia Burt, a new Prince Charming, the dashing young Michael Wallace and our stage manager for the Canal Walk Season, the very talented young Roelof Storm, has stepped in as the Tutor and the Fish. All three the new additions are doing a sterling job in their respective roles, and it’s always great to give talented newcomers a break in leading roles.
Do you and your creative partner Fred Abrahamse approach a children’s production differently to one meant for adults?
Not at all. Whether we’re doing ‘Richard III’ or ‘The Little Mermaid’, we apply the same amount of love, care, passion and production values to the project. We always strive to give our young audiences the best theatrical experience we can create. Creating quality theatre for young people is a major focus of our work. After all, this is an imperative investment into the future of the performing arts. If you can instil a love for the performing arts in someone at a very young age, you’ll have a loyal patron for life.
I already asked Abrahamse this question before, but now I’d like to know from you: you guys own your own creative company, A M Productions. Tell us about the dynamic of your creative relationship and how you guys make it work as two, I would imagine, strong willed individuals.
We’re very fortunate that we share a similar creative vision and that our various creative strengths and weaknesses complement each other. The most important things in any creative partnership are trust, open communication, honesty and a knowledge that the work is always greater than any personal agenda. Like Shakespeare said, “The play’s the thing”. Both Fred and I believe that, and we try to serve each play as best we can.
You have become a true all-rounder in the theatre world, not only acting, but also designing costumes and composing music. What would you say is your chief discipline right now, and what sparked this multi-dimensional approach?
Each discipline is so unique and has its own set of special rewards. I have been very privileged to have had the opportunities to be a jack of all trades and hopefully I’ve become a master of a few. If I had to pick one, I guess it would be acting. Very few things can compare with that distinctive delight that comes when actors and audience are in communion together.
Complete the following: Favourite movie; book; music album; song; midnight snack; holiday destination; lunch spot.
Film: Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor; Book: The Complete Works of Shakespeare; Album: the 1994 revival recording of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s ‘Carousel’ and the Original Broadway Cast recording of Sondheim’s ‘Sunday in the Park with George’; Song: ‘Not A Day Goes By’ from Sondheim’s ‘Merrily We Roll Along’; Midnight snack: Lindt Intense Caramel; Holiday destination: Venice; Lunch Spot: The Radisson.
What can we expect from you in the near, and further future?
We’ve just returned from the USA with a very successful season of Tennessee Williams’ ‘Kingdom of Earth’ which opens at Artscape for a short season in December before returning to the USA next year. We’re also currently re-rehearsing our production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, back by public demand, for a season at Maynardville in repertory with Shakespeare’s lost play, ‘Cardenio’. Early next year we go into rehearsals for a new Tennessee Williams play, in Afrikaans and English, a very exciting new musical for Canal Walk in June/July plus a new production of one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays for the second half of the year.
* ‘The Little Mermaid’ is showing at the Baxter Flipside from December 4 to January 5. Performances are from Mondays to Saturdays at 10am and 12pm daily. Book at Computicket.