The darkness of Cape Town suburbia explored in The Garage Sale

The darkness of Cape Town suburbia explored in The Garage Sale

This year sees the 10th anniversary of Artscape’s Spring Drama Season, running at the theatre complex from October 2 to November 29.
Opening this special Season is a production of the Rafiek Mammon play The Garage Sale, a darkly comedic three-hander that sardonically explores the darker, yet funny side of Cape Town suburbia.
This is Mammon’s second offering to the Spring Drama Season. His first play, ‘Seashells’, won an Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival.

PETER TROMP chatted to the cast and director.

What can people look forward to with ‘The Garage Sale’?
People can look forward to a very dark comedy, with a dangerous side. It’s a very complex script, which largely deals with letting go of the past. It focuses on a brother and a sister who are quite literally boxing up the remains of their parents’ lives. As they go, they unpack issues that have long been swept under the carpet, not talked about.
It’s a play that seems like one thing, but very quickly flips and turns into something else. One minute you think you know what’s going on, and the next your expectation is pulled out from underneath you. And it’s an exciting new script and it’s been a joy to work with such great actors on it.

What attracted you to helming the project in the first place?
I saw the showcase last year, and the final scene really took my breath away. There’s a darkness which really comes out in this scene, which lies under the rest of the play, giving it a danger and this really cool edge.
I also loved Rafiek’s play ‘Seashells’ and have always wanted to work with him on something. When he phoned me I jumped at the chance to get involved.

Tell us a bit about your character and your process of realising her.
I play Avril Williams, a 35 year old woman who has quite a bit of issues because of a rape early on in her life that she never really dealt with and that has manifested within her in strange ways. Like she’s a little OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder); she doesn’t really trust people or open up; and she’s got major relationship problems directly because of that.
The event really just impacted on every facet of her life and every choice she’s made. I think it might be a self-conscious decision on her part to not let go, which makes the character very fascinating.
Realising the character is one of those organic things where you find out more about the character the longer you inhabit her. Even now during technical rehearsals I’m discovering new things every day.

We haven’t seen you on the stage for a while. How does it feel to be back starring in a play?
Oh my God; it feels so amazing. It’s just like coming home. One thing I have realised is no matter what I tackle in my life, I will always go back to acting. I do believe in interludes, so my approach is to tell deep stories, but then go and live; go and learn and go and find new things, even about yourself. That kind of self-discovery is so vital and I fully practice that. I obviously want to do it more, but the fact that I’ve had more than a year and a half between acting projects has cemented that faith in and appreciation of the craft.

Tell us a bit about your character and your process of realising him.
My character is Michael Williams. He is sharp witted and equally sharp with his snappy come-backs. He loves the sound of his own voice and does not sugar coat his opinions on ideas, events and people.
To become sharp tongued and a “know it all” has been great fun. Realizing who he truly is has stretched my imagination and caused me to sweat. Countless moments of trying new things, and hours of repeating the same line again and again making sure it is different each time, has hopefully yielded a full character.

You’ve been a part of the Artscape Spring Drama Season before. What makes it such a special theatrical occasion?
What really excites me about the Spring Drama Season is that it brings with it new voices. New playwrights have an opportunity to give life to an idea and I am thrilled to be part of an idea.

Tell us a bit about your character and your process of realising him.
I play Philip van Tonder, or Flip. He’s an out of work, marijuana smoking actor and best friends with Mike, the younger brother of Avril, who Flip fancies. He is an interesting guy, because he’s a cynic and a fascist, but he’s also smart and passionate about things like social issues and politics, which when you listen to him for long enough make him kind of endearing. I always try and first find the human being in the character and then I try to tell his story as truthfully as I possibly can.

You grabbed the theatrical world’s attention when you won the Fleur du Cap Best Actor Award a few years ago. How has life treated you since receiving that accolade?
It was a great privilege to have received the award and it definitely influenced my career in a positive way. Having come from Bloemfontein it was difficult to get roles in theatre productions and since receiving the award I feel people take me a little bit more seriously as a performer. I will always be grateful to Chris Weare and The Mechanicals for allowing me to make theatre and great memories with them.

* ‘The Garage Sale’ runs until October 11 at 7.30pm nightly, with tickets from R40 to R90 via Computicket.