SEAN PARKER sat down with actors ANTANDWA KANI and NAT RAMABULANA for a chat about their play ‘Hayani’, which means “home” in Venda, and that can be seen at the Baxter Studio until August 31.
Where is home for you?
Atandwa: I live in Joburg, but I’m originally from PE. I’m a Jozi boy, though.
Nat: Home is in Braamfontein.
The play debuted in 2009. Has anything changed since then?
A: Yes; of course. As the play is autobiographical, we like to include these big events. Like having kids (pointing at Nat) – we can’t make another play about it. We try to enhance the present play and it has matured over the years, like we have. We are approaching 30 – wow!
N: The play is always shifting and it’s organic. It breathes and it lives and whatever happens in life comes through in the play.
What element does the live music add to the show and does it enhance your performances?
N: It adds so much colour and texture and Matthew McFarlane, who we call the maestro, is our composer. He brings out every bit of emotion in the play. He does it delicately. When we go for our curtain call at the end of the play, he gets a huge applause. Throughout the play you hear him and you feel him without realising he is there. And you give him his credit. He’s brilliant and the perfect person to accompany us. We first saw him in a production by a friend of mine, and we knew we should use him.
A: It’s like having a soundtrack in a movie. If you watch a movie in mute there is something that’s lost. It has the same effect in theatre; it enhances the emotions on stage. But as Nat was saying, not everybody is conscious of the music. It’s more like an undercurrent. And then you only realise when the guy is pointed. But it takes you a little bit further.
Is this play a form of catharsis for either of you?
N: I think it was originally used as that, but you can’t do that every night. We never set out to do that. We as actors are out there to tell stories, to tell meaningful stories. The most meaningful way to do that is to be open and honest about who you are, so that our audience can feel that way too. This show gives us a chance to perform as people we’ve known our whole lives.
A: (Butts in) Otherwise all our problems would be solved.
Both of you play various roles, at one point playing each other. Tell us about that?
A: We like working with each other, and we are very comfortable playing alongside each other as we go into detail about showing who this person is and what this person is about. It’s a representation of others that we know, too. It’s a mind job to play my mother and watch Nat act as me and thinking to myself, ‘this what I come across like to other people?’ It’s crazy in itself. It’s as simple as, if I can play a white friend, why can’t Nat play me?
What is the best compliment you have received of the show?
N: Someone on the first night in Cape Town said, I came in with cold hands and left with a warm heart.
A: I think that sums up the play nicely. It’s a journey of two men that fuses genres into a heart-warming piece that every South African can resonate with.
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