Dame Janet Suzman returns in the Baxter’s ‘Solomon and Marion’

Dame Janet Suzman returns in the Baxter’s ‘Solomon and Marion’

Following a highly successful run in Johannesburg, Dame Janet Suzman and Khayalethu Anthony have returned home to the Baxter Theatre Centre to reprise their roles in Lara Foot’s award-winning play ‘Solomon and Marion’ for 11 performances only. The production will show until July 20 at 7pm nightly, before heading off to the Edinburgh Festival.
‘Solomon and Marion’ brings together two very dynamic theatre luminaries in Suzman, directed by author Foot in her own two-hander which earned her the 2012 Fleur du Cap award for Best New South African Play; and Mannie Manim, who won the award for Best Lighting Design. The production received a further four nominations for Best Director (Foot), Best Set and Props Design (Patrick Curtis), Best Actress (Suzman) and Best Actor (Anthony).

‘Solomon and Marion’ is the story of two injured souls searching for redemption in the fragile, post-apartheid South Africa. Marion (Suzman) has watched her life drain away. Children and husband gone, she ekes out an existence in a country utterly transformed. But it’s the only home she has. As the new South Africa prepares for the World Cup finals, old divisions and suspicions seem as deep as ever, and the intruder she has been expecting, dreading and needing arrives. Can true reconciliation turn darkness into hope?

Widely regarded as one of this country’s most venerated theatre exports, Suzman is an internationally acclaimed and respected South African-born actress and director, who was made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for her services to drama in the Queen’s 2011 Birthday Honours, just six months after receiving an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Cape Town for her extraordinary achievements in theatre. With this production Suzman returned to the Johannesburg stage for the first time in over 35 years.
The Johannesburg-born actress and niece of the anti-apartheid activist Helen Suzman has twice won the Evening Standard Best Actress Award, and received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for her first lead in the film ‘Nicholas and Alexandra’. In a career spanning five decades, she has played almost the full list of Shakespeare’s female leads, as well as directing adaptations of ‘Othello’ and ‘The Cherry Orchard’. The Sunday Times (London) hailed her performance of Cleopatra as “the greatest Cleopatra of the past 50 years”.

This collaboration is in many ways a dream come true for the multiple-award-winning Foot, who heads up the Baxter Theatre Centre as CEO and Artistic Director.
“I wrote this play with Janet in mind. The tone of her voice was in my head,” explains Foot. “The play was inspired by a conversation I had with psychotherapist Tony Hamburger. It was motivated, in a sense, by a time in Cape Town when South Africa felt desperate both politically and socially. The actor Brett Goldin was murdered in 2006 just before the company was due to leave for Stratford-upon-Avon in the UK to perform in the Baxter Theatre Centre’s production of ‘Hamlet’ (which Janet directed) at the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company’s Complete Works Festival. So sifting through all this, I found a symbol of life which exists in unlikely relationships.” Twenty-six-year-old Khayalethu Anthony made his mainstream theatre debut with this production in the role of the young Solomon. Anthony was selected out of 14 actors through a rigorous audition process. He was nominated for Best Script Writer at the Baxter’s 2011 Zabalaza Theatre Festival where he wrote and directed ‘Inqwithelo Zemimoya’, performed in isiXhosa, with his Khayelitsha-based company Imbawula Theatre Company.

When Khayalethu heard that he was chosen to perform the role of Solomon opposite Dame Janet Suzman he was initially scared and then “freaked out”.
“I started Googling the name Janet Suzman just after I heard that I got the role. I felt like I had a mountain to climb. She is a world-class actress with an incredible performance reputation. To share the same stage with one of the finest actors in the world is more than a privilege for me; it is more than an honour. It just simply is the best thing that has happened to me in my life,” Anthony says.

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