New Voices and boundaries being shifted on the stage

New Voices and boundaries being shifted on the stage

Artscape’s New Voices programme continues this week with a gripping double bill of original plays, ‘in (s)kin’ and ‘Syria?’, to be presented at the Artscape Arena from Wednesday, October 19 to 29.
One half of the bill, ‘Syria?’, is a satirical drama of a bigoted parent who tries to have a Muslim boy expelled from school for befriending her daughter. It is written by and stars Faith Kinniar, who will share the stage with Gary Naidoo and Peter Fourie.
Peter Tromp caught up with NAIDOO, who is expanding on his usual theatrical repertoire with the production.

Give us the nitty-gritty on the production and what audiences can look forward to.
One might think that ‘Syria?’ (yes, with a question mark) is very ‘Serious?’ and yet there are many moments that conjure up a smile, chuckle and sometimes a guttural laugh. The play deals with Islamophobia but more specifically terrorism in all its forms. It takes place in a school where Waleef, a 17 year old British Pakistani boy, together with his newest and closest friend Lauren, inadvertently create a rift between their parents after giving an oral about the continuing vicious attacks on Muslims. It explores the inability of people to see different perspectives and adjust their thinking accordingly, a quality too often lacking in society. It also revolves around honest relationships and how external forces can taint or rip them apart.

Tell us about your character(s) and the process you’re employing in your realisation of him (them).
Firstly, I play Waleef, a 17 year-old boy, relatively new to the school. He is an “A” student who keeps his head in his books to distract himself from speaking out about his faith and the brutal abuse of Muslims around the world.
The second, is my interpretation of the popular Reverend Jeremiah Wright, ridiculed for his controversial sermons. It has honestly been a sickening process to flush out these and all the other characters I play, simply because I could not avoid seeing and experiencing the atrocities of the super powers against weaker nations and countries. All research leads to assassinations or genocide or inhumane military destruction. I have come out a slightly changed person: Sadder and even heartbroken.

You’ve become known as somewhat of a music and comedy specialist on the stage. How are you feeling upon attempting something more dramatic?
It has been both a mental and physical challenge. Mental, in that I had to overcome my own shortcomings as an actor almost never being cast in these type of roles due to ability or mental block; and physical, in that I had to tone down myself for a character which was difficult for an actor who has for many years used movement as his “weapon of mass laughter”.
The process was made much more comfortable though by my director Quanita Adams, who has been absolutely brilliant at dissecting the meaning and rhythms from the script, making performance so much more natural. It was indeed an inspiring and supporting crash course in acting 101. She has helped to make me believe in my ability. Bring in the hugs.

Tickets, ranging in price from R50 to R80, are available from Computicket or Artscape Dial-A-Seat
on 021 421 7695.