Nominated for six Naledi Theatre awards, the Baxter Theatre Centre will present the Market Theatre’s production of Suddenly the Storm during Youth month, from June 7 to July 8. Two of South Africa’s leading theatre stalwarts, playwright and actor Paul Slabolepszy and theatre and television director Bobby Heaney, have once again teamed up to “create a distinctly South African experience” in Slabolepszy’s brand new hit play.
Joining Slabolepszy on stage in his role as Dwayne are Charmaine Weir-Smith (‘Isidingo’, ‘Binnelanders’, ‘Generations’) as Shanell and Renate Stuurman (‘Isidingo’, ‘Scandal!’) as Namhla.
Peter Tromp caught up with Slab on the eve of the play’s Cape Town run.
Suddenly The Storm is your first new play since 2013’s ‘My Low-Fat, Almost Italian Wedding’. What inspired you to commit pen to paper, or fingertip to keyboard, almost five years after your last theatrical statement?
I write plays as and when they come to me. Suddenly The Storm took five years, a lot longer than any of my previous 30 plays, and took me on a journey with many twists and turns. One of the sparks that ignited the process was thinking of a young woman who was born in Soweto on June 16, 1976. She would be 40 years old in 2016 – 20 years oppressed and 20 years free. She has so many questions that still need answers.
The play had a celebrated run in Joburg last year. What can Cape Town audiences look forward to now that we finally get to see it?
The play had two runs in Joburg last year – at the Market Theatre, as well as the Theatre on the Square in Sandton. Cape Town audiences can look forward to a play that will move and excite them and allow them to share in a powerful story that speaks to all South Africans.
You don’t always act in your own plays, yet you are one of the leads in this production. What compelled you to brave the spotlight again?
I place myself in the capable hands of Bobby Heaney, my director. Immediately when rehearsals begin, I throw off my ‘writer’s mantle’ and become an actor, guided every step of the way by this true master of the craft.
Tell us about the characters in the play, your co-stars and acting under Bobby Heaney’s direction.
Namhla Gumede, 40 years old, has spent half her life in exile and the last half back in the land of her birth. Apartheid robbed her of her youth. She is now 40 and she still doesn’t know where she belongs. A story told to her by an aunt on her deathbed brings her to the home of Dwayne Combrink, a metalworker and part time ‘Collector’, and his younger wife, Shanell. Renate Stuurman, as Namhla, is all I could have wished for in the part; as is Charmaine Weir-Smith. Watching these two superb actresses bring their characters to life under Bobby Heaney’s keen and insightful direction has been both marvellous and awe-inspiring.
What is/are your opinion(s) on SA theatre as it exists in the present moment?
Charmaine read us a quote the other day about Theatre ‘dying’. Theatre is supposed to have been dying for thousands of years – amazing that it is still the alpha and the omega. Television and the so-called Silver Screen pale into insignificance when compared to a ‘live’ theatre experience; and that deep, powerful communion between actors and an audience in a magic, sacred space can never adequately be challenged. SA theatre – like theatre all around the globe – still excites and inspires and will continue to do so as long as we keep telling our wonderful stories.
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