By Melissa Cohen
Forty six years in any industry is a long time, but for local theatre legend, Nicholas Ellenbogen, he is just getting started. Before he finished school, Ellenbogen used theatre primarily as an “expression outlet”, but now he is a world renowned theatre maker, actor and director, and he loves it.
After writing over 150 productions and directing over 200, this professional still believes that you never stop learning. “I always believe that nothing can be taken for granted. I see my next play that I do as a new challenge and I am lucky because I don’t have a backwards memory, so everything seems new and fresh and I leave the past productions in the past,” explains the entertainer.
One of Ellenbogen’s most recognised works is the ‘Raiders’ series which has made headlines at the Grahamstown Arts Festival for the past 25 years. “I have definitely found the ‘Raiders’ series extremely difficult over the years. I find that it’s been really difficult to keep the content new and reinvent the story to suit the actors,” says Ellenbogen.
Throughout the years, Ellenbogen has ensured that he has worked with different young and upcoming actors on each ‘Raiders’ production. “I rely a lot on the other actors that I work with and bounce energy off them. I am very careful about the people I choose to work with. I choose people that I want to work with,” he mentions.
‘Raiders: The Great War’ is the latest addition to the ‘Raiders’ series and is currently showing at the Rosebank Theatre until September 6. The show is set during the war in Europe and with the Bolsheviks having signed the forms to execute the Romanov family. Ellenbogen is accompanied by local theatre newcomers, Daniel Richards and Sne Dladlam, who also appeared in his recent production of ‘Fergus of Galloway’.
“It’s a like a new play every night,” laughs Richards while taking a sip of sherry. “I have never experienced any production like it. I really think that working on ‘Raiders’ has changed my perspective about performing.” With the audience being a crucial part in making ‘Raiders’ as successful as it has become, Richards explains how important it is to be guided by the audience and their participation and enthusiasm throughout the performance.
“‘Raiders’ is an action adventure show and I would like to see it running for the next ten years, but I would need to make a few changes to it. I think that it is going to make a transition in to a new genre of physical theatre,” says Ellenbogen with a smile.
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