Laying bare the secret world of an elicit affair

Laying bare the secret world of an elicit affair

PETER TROMP chatted to local actors PAUL DU TOIT and JULIE HARTLEY, who can be at the Kalk Bay Theatre in the relationship drama ‘Same Time Next Year’, which has really had audiences buzzing.

JULIE HARTLEY

Tell us about ‘Same Time Next Year’. What can audiences look forward to with the show?
I heard comments from audience members that ‘Same Time Next Year’ felt like peeking into conversations that they had had with their spouses. It’s warm, it’s funny, charming and disarming. You can expect to laugh and cry when you least expect to.
The play is about George and Doris. Two married people with their own families who meet up on one weekend every year spanning 25 years. It is a brilliantly crafted piece by Bernard Slade.

What’s it like coming down to Cape Town for a bit of “serious theatre”? I mean, the weather’s not that great right now, but there must be a certain appeal in working in our little dorpie.
I lived in Joburg for 12 years and have actually been in Cape Town for 12 years now. And if you think Cape Town is a “dorpie”, well I live on a coin outside Cape Town on a small holding. As to the “serious theatre” bit, it is a major challenge as I have been doing so much film work. There is no take two.

What has it been like working with Christopher Weare on this production? What can you reveal about his methods?
If I were on a sinking ship, Chris Weare would be the captain I would choose to be on board with. He is a generous, patient, astute director. There have been many times in my career where I have felt belittled and misunderstood by a director. Nothing can flourish under those circumstances, just fear and second guesses. Chris has a gift of being really smart. He just asks a question and allows you to arrive at the answer. And then when the penny finally drops, you are the one who feels smart, as if you arrived at the answer all on your own. He is tremendously accomplished and trusts and knows the rehearsal process so well. We only rehearsed this six scene marathon for three weeks, and Chris was so steadfast as to where we were in the rehearsal process. Haha, can you tell? I just love Chris.

Tell us about the character you play in ‘Same Time Next Year’ and the method you employed in realising her/him.
I play Doris. Bernard Slade must have had divine inspiration or a whole lot of insight into relationships when writing this piece. It is so well crafted and the characters are so strongly written that I found Doris revealed herself straight off the page. Of course, ‘Same Time Next Year’ is all about Doris with George, not with her family or any other surrounding. It was integral, in finding Doris, to develop a believable chemistry between the characters, and finding who they were with each other. I think Paul and I have definitely achieved that. He is a really gifted, generous actor and I am so grateful to be working with him. With Chris’s nudging; witnessing Paul bring George alive expertly every day; Fran Shenker’s wardrobe; the intimate space of Kalk Bay Theatre – I guess Doris had no choice but to happen for me.

What are the sternest challenges you face on a daily basis as a professional actor in South African showbiz?
Having to be healthy 24/7. No splurges! In my work no voice equals no remuneration. I was in a long run many years ago, so wasn’t able to attend my brother’s wedding. I am still sore about that.

Complete the following: Favourite movie; book; music album; song; midnight snack; holiday destination; lunch spot.
Movie: ‘Life is Beautiful’ Book: Too many – I’m a book fiend. Perhaps Edith Wharton’s ‘House of Mirth’. Music: am so teased over my music choices, that I’d prefer not to say. Song: This will give you a clue – ‘Night and Day’ by Cole Porter or ‘All the Things You Are’. Midnight Snack: My horses are the midnight snackers – mmmm carrots! And just because the horses are eating them, my dogs love carrots too. Holiday destination: Vietnam. Lunch spot: It totally depends on the weather and mood. There are so many amazing places in Cape Town. Pepper Tree in Philadelphia springs immediately to mind.

What can we expect from you next?
Well, it’s not in the field of acting. I am currently helping to educate a very special girl who has Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. With the help of my pony Queenie and a gifted tutor who comes in once a week, she went from Grade R to Grade 1 in a month. Her social skills and her confidence have improved and I am so immensely proud and encouraged by her development to date. The surroundings where I live have exposed me to how rife Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is in the Western Cape and I would like to help other challenged children in the area. Who knows, maybe even have a little school one day.

PAUL DU TOIT

When did you first realise that you wanted to become a professional actor?
I played Joseph three years running at nursery school, but always viewed it much like pulling Christell Muller’s hair; fun, but sadly not a career option. I went to varsity to drink and study law. Four years later I left with an honour’s degree in Drama and an overly familiar relationship with the Stellenbosch constabulary. (Both of which I still claim are not my fault)

What for you ranks among your personal favourite roles and projects?
Playing Biff, under Bobby Heaney’s masterful direction in ‘Death of a Salesman’ was really one of those dream-come-true moments. It was translated into Afrikaans and contextualised beautifully in South Africa.

Please tell us about ‘Same Time Next Year’. What can audiences look forward to with the show?
It’s a magnificent text; funny, sad, detailed, real, pacy, dense and intensely moving. It’s been nominated for a string of awards in the past and won a Tony. One local critic called it “the best play he’s seen at the Kalk Bay theatre”. I hope audiences will leave understanding why it has been Simon Cooper’s (Kalk Bay Theatre owner) dream for so long to produce this play.

You are both actors who primarily work in Joburg. What’s it like coming down to Cape Town for a bit of “serious theatre”? I mean, the weather’s not that great right now, but there must be a certain appeal in working in our little “dorpie”.
No no no no no! My sojourn in The Big Smoke was always merely a temporary one. It just happened to last eight years longer than the seven months I intended, but I am happy to say that I am once again a card-carrying, rate-paying Capetonian and poorer for it.

What was it like working with Christopher Weare on this production? What can you reveal about his methods?
The prof is a very rare breed of director: gentle, understanding, patient and ego-less……except he did show the company a picture of himself playing in a band. Apparently to illustrate to us what pants looked like in the early sixties.

Tell us about the character you play in ‘Same Time Next Year’ and the method you employed in realising her/him.
Luckily he’s all there in the text; geographic background, family, neuroses and allergies. I just had to decide on the little things like whether he tucks his shirt into his underpants or not.

Do you have any pre-show rituals or superstitions that you’ve picked up along the way in your career?
I always take my grandfather’s World War II army issue pocket knife with me to the theatre.

What are the sternest challenges you face on a daily basis as a professional actor in South African showbiz?
Explaining to bank clerks that it is absolutely and completely impossible for me to produce a salary slip.

Complete the following: Favourite movie; book; music album; song; midnight snack; holiday destination; lunch spot.
Movie: ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’
Book: ‘My Traitor’s Heart’ by Riaan Malan
Album: ‘Led Zeppelin II’
Song: ‘Still Standing’ by Tim Parr
Midnight Snack: A Bacon and avocado burger. Sadly after the show and a couple of drinks, (pretty much midnight!), there doesn’t seem to be a bacon and avo burger anywhere to be found in Kalk Bay.
Holiday: I sort of grew up in Pringle Bay, so it really has a special place in my heart. I’ve also always wanted to visit Bassa da India. (So if anyone with a yacht is reading this, I’d be happy to crew.)
Lunch spot: Any spot that can make my children disappear as the cork pops out the bottle and reappear after coffees without stitches or a pending lawsuit.

Are there any dream parts, or people you’d like to work with that you’d sacrifice a limb for?
Is this where I’m supposed to say something about ‘Hamlet’? What I’ve always wanted is my own production company. I still don’t have it – half of it belongs to Terence Bridgett. We’ve called it Fanagalo Films. We made a travel series called ‘Rough or Smooth’ last year and besides local broadcasts we managed to get some Canadian interest when we took it to a film festival in Toronto. So, season two looks, at this stage, like it will be shot mainly in the first world.

What can we expect from you next?
I’m playing Brad in the ‘Rocky Horror Show’ at the Fugard Theatre (opening July 10), there will be more soap action on ‘Binneland’, and I’m already in pre-production for season two of ‘Rough or Smooth’ to be shot predominately in Canada and the USA with a couple of SA episodes.

* For bookings and for more information, visit www.kbt.co.za.
To read an interview with Hartley’s co-star Paul Du Toit, visit www.48hours.co.za.