Die Nag van Legio reincarnated with present day reality in mind

Die Nag van Legio reincarnated with present day reality in mind

PG du Plessis’ laureate Hertzog prize drama, Die Nag van Legio, will have a short run at the Artscape Arena Theatre from Tuesday, November 14, to Sunday, November 19.

Die Nag van Legio is recognized by many as a South African masterpiece. The psychological thriller is set in a psychiatric institute. The lives of four patients are drastically altered when a character, Dogoman, appears on the scene.

This debut work of PG du Plessis was written in the late 1960s and performed in 1969 by PACT with legendary actors like Carel Trichardt, Marius Weyers and Louis van Niekerk. Pretoria is said to have come to a virtual standstill with this unprecedented protest piece. Du Plessis was a student of NP van Wyk Louw, who held the belief that every generation should protest some cause. Die Nag van Legio is protest, and translates easily to today’s political landscape,” reads the release for the production.

Peter Tromp caught up with director Albert Maritz and actor Deon Lotz for the inside scoop on this exciting play.

Tell us about the show and why this late 1960s work remains relevant today.

ALBERT MARITZ: As much as it was a statement then against the regime, with constant referrals to ‘Broeders’, it has indeed now lost that direct punch. The regime has changed; so has the direct focus of the play. I do make use of elements outside of the script to tickle the audience and guide them to what we are up against today. But now the statement is more subtle. If anything, it will probably now relate very well to a black audience.

Die Nag van Legio sounds like it might be mainly targeted at serious theatregoers. How would you sell the show to more casual patrons?

DEON LOTZ: Not just serious, it has a lot of sharp witty and cleverly written dialog. I think it will make you think about our situation in the country and life in general. So no; it’s not just for the select theatregoer – it will appeal to anyone in general.

Tell us about some of the actors assembled for the piece and what each brings to the table.

MARITZ: Gerben Kamper, leading a pack of circus characters in the institute for the mentally handicapped, where ‘Legio’ happens, is lead by probably the most powerful presence on any Cape stage, André Roothman, in the part of Dogoman, which helped make Louis van Niekerk famous – very famous –  in the first production of this play in Pretoria nearly five decades ago. The Marius Weyers part is played by TEMPO best actor winner (for the film ‘Vir die voëls’), Francois Jacobs. The simply brilliant Duncan Johnson is Charley. Deon Lotz also comes to the party as a ‘tragical’, but very funny man who has lost his marbles. Riaan Visman, hugely underutilized, is the nuanced doctor.

There’s still something uniquely special about theatre, especially in our tech submerged society. What is your first memory of falling in love with the art form?

LOTZ: I remember seeing ‘Siener in the Suburbs’, also by PG du Plessis, in the Nico (Malan) many moons ago with Marius Weyers and Sandra Prinsloo. Now I have had the privilege to work with them.

* Performances are at 8 pm, nightly. There are matinees on November 15 and 19 at 3pm, and on November 18 at 2.30pm. Tickets are R120 at Computicket and Artscape Dial-a-seat on 021 421 7695.