ALISTAIR IZOBELL will direct the 53rd Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards this year, scheduled to take place at The Baxter Theatre on March 18. RAFIEK MAMMON caught up with him to chat about the many hats he wears in local theatre productions.
Question: What do up-and-coming performers like Sasha-Lee Davids, Nur Abrahams and Andrea Anthony among a host, and I mean a host, of others have in common?
Answer: Alistair Izobell, at some point in their careers, had a hand in their development. And that word, “development” is a resolute one in Izobell’s vocabulary. “I am at the stage of my life where I am reflecting on the contributions I made to other people’s careers. I believe we have come a long way in closing the gap between younger directors, producers and theatre makers of colour and those that always held the theatre reigns.”
Izobell believes strongly one has to remember, and give thanks to, those that had a hand in one’s development, mentioning people like the late Taliep Petersen, David Kramer and Terry Fortune as a few influential people in his career. To date his solo music career lists eight albums and many one-man shows to his credit. Besides performing and song writing, he has tapped back in to his roots of music by starting to musically supervise and musically direct a few major musicals, including ‘The Kramer Petersen Songbook’; ‘Some Like It Vrot’; ‘Blood Brothers’; ‘Kat and The Kings’; ‘District Six Kanala’ and the latest hit, ‘Aunty Merle, the Musical’.
But, like many an ageing performer he also maintains: “There comes a time when you have to hang up the proverbial gloves, when the applause and validation will come in other formats – from behind the scenes, and not always in the spotlight.” And, by paving the way for the younger generation to create and make theatre, Izobell hopes to build and leave a legacy of wait for it: “development” of the younger generation.
He also thinks the younger generation often doesn’t understand the industry. Their perception of what theatre, music and this industry of ours is about is skewed by the ‘instant success’ promised by television singing competitions like Idols or The Voice.
“They don’t know how much hard work it entails. The glitz and the glamour that a live theatre audience or a television viewer gets to see is not nearly a representation of the graft you need to put in,” he explains. “Entertainment is hard work. You need a real passion and a real love for it. If you are just ticking a box, it is passionless, loveless,” he continues.
“Even if a modicum of success is reached, the work never stops. And, instilling a sense of pride in coloured people will not come about if we do not have a healthy balance of criticism and validation.” I ask him what he means by that statement. “Young people need to be nurtured and praised for their efforts but in order for standards to be maintained we also need to criticise their work.”
To sustain this statement Izobell tells of his involvement in a project called “The Camissa People’s Project” as well as one called “Inspired Stages” – both of which have to do with understanding who you are and where you come from in order to instil the pride, humanity and confidence coloured young people often lack.
We got so lost in these discussions that I nearly forgot to ask the million-dollar question: “What can we look forward to at this year’s Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards on March 18?”
In true Alistair Izobell style he simply answered: “A Jol. Not the jorl with the ‘r’, an old-fashioned jol, definitely no ‘r’ for rah rah! Oh, and vere (feathers) and sequins. Lots of sequins…”