Eric Abraham and the Fugard Theatre will present the musical tribute, ‘District Six – Kanala’, created and directed by David Kramer, – to mark the 50th anniversary of the destruction of District Six in 2016.
The production will have its preview opening on Tuesday, February 2, with the official premiere scheduled for February 11 – precisely 50 years on after District Six was declared a white group area.
PETER TROMP caught up with stars BIANCA LEGRANGE, SNE DLADLA and CARLO DANIELS on the eve of the production’s big run.
(Picture: Bianca LeGrange (Back Row, third from left), Sne Dladla (Front Row, far left) and Carlo Daniels (far right standing)
Tell us about ‘District Six – Kanala’ and what audiences can look forward to with the production.
Bianca LeGrange: ‘District Six – Kanala’ is a musical tribute show that will transport audiences to a very special place during a painful time in South Africa’s political past. ‘Kanala’ pays homage to the eclectic community that inhabited District Six and it is a bittersweet memory, as the audiences will experience. It was one of the most valuable cultural hubs in our country and that’s what the show aims to show explicitly. You will meet characters that lived and loved there. With performances by the likes of Loukmaan Adams and Musical Direction by Alistair Izobel, there is no doubt that you will get lost in a very entertaining show. David Kramer has definitely done it again.
You will get to sing to favourite songs that were written over a period of 30 years between two best friends that also changed the face of South African theatre.
You will get to see colourful costumes that were designed and made just for this piece. You will laugh, you will cry; you will long for a place you never even knew, or seen. We will take you there and you will experience the magic that once was District Six.
Sne Dladla: ‘District Six – Kanala’ to me serves as a memory of what should never be forgotten – the stories of the bad, the good, the great, the extraordinary and the funnies; the touching moments of what we need to strive for and change in this world. The audience can expect to be entertained beyond their expectations, hold their tummies from too much laughter and touched deeply in their hearts.
Tell us about your character and how you have gone about realising the role. What unique qualities do you think you’re bringing to the part?
LeGrange: Eveline Williams grew up in District Six. She has two best friends, namely Gladys and Roetie. Eveline loves attention and for her photo to be taken. She wants to be a star. She starts a singing group with her aforementioned friends, and they sing at the Star Bioscope. Eveline has a granddaughter that she tells stories to so when it’s story time she takes out all her photos from District Six and tell her all the stories of growing up there. I guess like Eveline, I always wanted to be a star and a storyteller. Because I grew up in Johannesburg, I feel like I am an outsider to the District, but it makes me feel like I am having a love affair with a beautiful past.
Dladla: I play a number of characters in the show, much like the rest of the cast. It’s definitely more challenging to prepare for a role that requires you to play more than one character, but I haven’t had too much of a challenge getting into each role. It’s been nothing short of fun finding each character. I think the main thing I bring to each character is the view/thought process of a stand-up comedian…strange, but strangely accurate.
Daniels: Most of the actors in the show play different characters. One thing all the characters have is that they are all lovable characters, even the gangsters, although it can get really rough.
This is a large cast. How long would you say it has taken for you guys to establish chemistry amongst yourselves?
LeGrange: I’ve worked with some of the members in the cast before and with such an iconic story we all came with one vision, and that is to tell the best ‘District Six – Kanala’ story. It is actually a very small cast compared to others. Each performer has been carefully selected by David and his team.
We are four females and four males and everyone, except (me as) Eveline, plays other characters. Each scene is set to describe a time and place. The actors’ roles are to convince the audience that they are being transported to 50 years ago. It’s magic.
Dladla: It didn’t take any time at all. We’ve all basically worked with each other before or at least heard of each other, or done the “Google” check. (laughs) But this cast had chemistry before the run began. We just work.
What is the most nervous you’ve ever been on stage?
LeGrange: I always get nervous before a show. We work so hard for three weeks and you never know what the audience will do – they can love it or hate it. As an actress and performer you are directed and choreographed to do certain things. There are often times you can change very few things about a character or scene, so to take criticism of your performance is a hard pill to swallow at times.
I once was so nervous I vomited behind Beyoncé Knowles’s speaker. Together with Tamara Dey, KB, TK and Poeseletso I was one of the opening acts. There were 25000 people there for the concert; it was a daunting experience.
Dladla: I’d say with my first one man comedy show. It was one of those moments where you realise that this will either break you or make you and that for a full hour, it’s just you and hundreds of people.
Daniels: I don’t think I get nervous so much as it is a mixture of nervousness and excitement. I feel it with every new piece I’m doing.
“Last night a show changed my life.” Which show?
LeGrange: ‘Blood Brothers’ changed my life. Telling that story every night was a huge challenge. That is where my big musical theatre break happened and I was honoured to have won a Naledi award for my performance.
Dladla: I can’t say that I’ve had the time to see shows because of the artist/comedian life. Every night is a show night and if not, it’s a rest night. But what I can say is that being in ‘Orpheus In Africa’ has changed my life. I got the pleasure of meeting many African Americans through that show who spoke about how they felt about what they saw and the love that they poured over us as artists after the show was incredible. Getting congratulations from South Africans has been amazing, but hearing “Well done,” or “Thank you” from African Americans, went so much deeper, simply because of what most of the subject matter in ‘Orpheus’ dealt with.
Daniels: Doing ‘Kat and the Kings’ changed my life. It was a dream come true to perform the songs and the text and with David Kramer as writer and director.
The one role you’d like to be remembered for, and why…
LeGrange: I’d like to be remembered as a hard working, dedicated performer and for people to remember all my roles. – like my mentor Shaleen Surti Richards. I mean, who doesn’t remember Nena from ‘Egoli’, or Matti from ‘Generations’ and my favourite, the Fairy God Mother in Janis Honeyman’s ‘Cinderella’?
Daniels: I would like to be remembered for all the roles I play. As an actor I love to be creative, therefore every new role is a new challenge and I want it to be “Great and memorable.”
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