A sordid tale of political intrigue for the stage

A sordid tale of political intrigue for the stage

‘The Kingmakers’, a new, dark political comedy from the mind of Louis Viljoen, will be showing at The Alexander Upstairs Theatre on Strand Street from Monday, August 25, to Saturday, September 13.
Written and directed by Viljoen, the award winning scribe of plays like ‘Champ’ and ‘The Frontiersmen’, ‘The Kingmakers’ is set in the familiar world of skulduggery, backstabbing, one-upmanship, disloyalty, blackmail and profiteering – otherwise known as South African politics – and follows a group of opposition-party strategists as they attempt to place a neutral party member in contention for leadership.

PETER TROMP chatted to the various parties involved about their roles in the sordid affair.

Louis Viljoen
What were your chief inspirations for writing ‘The Kingmakers’?
My main inspiration was the idea of selling a lie and what it would take to sell a huge lie to a large group of people, which to my mind is the essence of politics: the lie agreed upon, then sold, then taken as truth by the populace, making us complicit in our own destruction.
Coupled with my distrust of politicians, I knew I could use politics as a genre to frame the story I wanted to tell.
The play is not a political exposé, or even a realistic depiction of the inner workings of any political party, but rather an examination of the ease of selling out and the realisation that morality is subjective, by using political machinations and themes as the world surrounding the ideas.

What can audiences look forward to with the show?
I purposefully labelled the play as a dark comedy, because I don’t think we can look at people working within the political arena and be expected to take them seriously.
They are, for the most part and quite obviously a despicable bunch of liars, thieves and whores who are so clearly corrupted and weak, therefore making them the ideal subjects for a comedy.
What isn’t funny, of course, is what their actions lead to, which is the real tragedy. That’s why it’s a dark comedy. You want comedy? Write about a politician. You want tragedy? Write about the guy who votes for the politician.

Brendon Daniels
Tell us a bit about your character and your process of realising him.
My character is Daniel, who is an out and out Party man. He still clings to the real ideals, but discovers it becomes increasingly difficult to stay true to his morals. The script is so well written that if done honestly, you’ll inevitably bring the character to life.

You won the Fleur du Cap award earlier this year for your role in ‘Rooiland’. How did you feel when you were honoured with that prize?
The fact that the character ADIDAS made a clean sweep of festival awards and won the Fleur du Cap suggests that the character was well written. The ensemble should get due recognition, is my feeling. It does validate one’s effort, though, and I am grateful for that.

Rebecca Makin-Taylor
Tell us about your character and your process of realising her.
I play the role of Amy, a spin doctor. She is pragmatic, ambitious and smart. She enjoys the game of politics and is always looking for ways to spin a situation to her advantage. The character has been coming together through discussions with Louis, textual analysis, finding the intentions behind the lines and in dialogue with the other actors in rehearsals.

We’ve seen you recently in one-woman shows. How does it feel to be part of an ensemble cast again?
It feels fantastic. Doing one woman shows has taught me so much, which I am very grateful for, but I have missed working as part of an ensemble. There is a strong rhythm to the writing, so in dialogue I can’t afford to miss a beat. This keeps me on my toes, forcing me to listen and respond truthfully to the other actors onstage, which is exhilarating.

Pierre Malherbe
Tell us a bit about your character and your process of realising him.
I play the part of Arlow. He is a shrewd and unscrupulous political strategist who will stop at nothing to achieve his goals, all of which are motivated by greed. Politics is a game to him and it’s all about winning the game. I used David Mamet’s method of being truthful to the character’s intention, as written in the text, to help realise the character; that and Louis’s wonderful directing, of course.

What would you say makes Louis Viljoen such a unique writer from an actor’s standpoint?
This is the second Louis Viljoen play that I’ll be working on and I think he manages to strike the perfect balance between great entertainment and poignancy; the stylized and the colloquial. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of film, which influences his writing, more so than any other South African playwright. It feels like performing in theatricalised film genre pieces, which is exciting.

* Tickets are R100, or R90 prepaid, which can be booked at www.alexanderbar.co.za.  For telephone bookings and more information, call 021 300 1652. The Alexander Bar & Café is situated on 76 Strand Street (Corner Loop), Cape Town CBD.