From Russia (to Africa) with love

From Russia (to Africa) with love

By Melissa Cohen

As anyone can attest, having a cup of coffee can be a rather mundane experience, unless you have brilliant company to share in the ritual. Such was the case for me recently when I met with two vibrant, energetic and extremely enthusiastic actors over a cuppa. Carel Nel and Nandi Horak, two celebrated theatrical talents, met with me to discuss their involvement in the latest Mechanicals production: an adaptation of Chekhov’s famous play, ‘The Cherry Orchard’.

Although both actors lived completely different lives on opposite ends of the country, they were brought together by the Mechanicals theatre company in Cape Town where they have both been fulfilling their dreams of acting during the last few years. “The Mechanicals has helped me establish myself as an actor,” mentions Nel, who last year won the Fleur Du Cap Best Actor Award for his performance in ‘Die Rebellie van Lafras Verwey’.

Even though Horak only recently graduated, she has already been in various productions and is excited to be working on another Mechanicals production with Nel. “It’s great to work with Carel again because we have become good friends and it’s an easy process because we feel comfortable with each other”, smiles the actress, with Nel listening and chuckling.
Both actors confessed their enjoyment of being a part of the Mechanicals adaption of ‘The Cherry Orchard’, which has been translated into Afrikaans and renamed ‘Die Kersieboord’. “I have performed a few plays in Afrikaans and I really enjoy it as it is my home language. I find it very easy to express myself in it,” Horak mentions.

‘Die Kersieboord’ is one of a three part season that the Mechanicals are showcasing at the Intimate Theatre at UCT’s Hiddingh Campus in Gardens, along with such Chekhov pieces as ‘The Bear’ and ‘The Proposal’. “ I find Chekhov’s pieces fascinating as I feel he is trying to show how life is and then how one can make it better,” says Horak.

Sandra Temmingh, the director of ‘Die Kersieboord’, has adapted the set to be as simplistic as possible, therefore allowing for the emphasis to be put solely on the words and the message. “The set is simplistic but beautiful; it really looks like a cherry orchard. Not only that, but Sandra’s adaptation is very current and will be relevant for everyone in society,” discusses Nel. The actor also mentions that his character, Pieter, was very difficult to perform as through him, Chekhov voices his ideals as well as his opinions on society.
Cape Town’s wait will soon be over and this “strange eccentric experience of Russian culture- in Afrikaans” will be brought to the stage. So swap your brandy for some Vodka, your English for some Afrikaans and go and enjoy an evening of Russian culture performed with some South African flare.

* ‘Die Kersieboord’ will show from August 6 to 17 and again from August 28 to 31 at 8pm in the evenings.
For bookings, visit