Comedy and Horror Dovetail in New Production at The Fugard

Comedy and Horror Dovetail in New Production at The Fugard

Local wordsmith Louis Viljoen’s new play ‘The Demon Bride’ – which caused quite a stir on the theatre festival circuit – opened at the Fugard Theatre last week for its Cape Town run.

Peter Tromp caught up with actors BIANCA FLANDERS and CAREL NEL to get the lowdown on why this is not your average horror-comedy; or is that comedy-horror?

Tell us about ‘The Demon Bride’ and why audiences should be excited for the show.

BIANCA FLANDERS: ‘The Demon Bride’ is a fabulous new play written by Louis Viljoen. It’s a comedy horror about a bunch of unlikely people stuck in a house with a possessed bride. I think audiences should be for it because I don’t know of anyone in South Africa who’s tried to bring the horror genre to stage before, so this is brand new territory. The play is funny and rude and a bit heartbreaking at times. The sound and lighting design are epic so you are in for quite the experience.

What were rehearsals like, specifically the journey you guys went on to establish the overall (comedic) tone of the production?

CAREL NEL: The rehearsals were an absolute joy. It’s a really fun group of people trying to make something special. We approached the show as a Horror-comedy and not as a Comedy-horror, so we tried to play into the horror genre and not into the comedy. I find comedy very difficult, as you have to approach it as a serious drama, otherwise it won’t be funny; it’ll just be someone trying to be funny. So the same rule applied here. Play the situation, the horror, and the comedy will come. The script it very well written and has many comedy elements, so by just being in the moment it becomes funny. Obviously you need to have timing, but that comes with rehearsals and experience.

What’s the biggest challenge for an actor coming to grips with Louis Viljoen’s dialogue?

BIANCA FLANDERS: All the words! Most of us have epic monologues written in a very specific way, so learning the lines took me longer than usual. There isn’t really room for paraphrasing as the comedy lies in the text, so we had to be really careful about not adding our own words. Your lines are also never isolated, so something you say in the beginning of the scene will be referred to at the end of the scene, so we had to be very careful about getting it right.

CAREL NEL: This is my second time working with Louis and to be honest I find it easy to work with his dialogue, as he is a master of the English language so he writes in a way that makes sense. You don’t need to decipher what he is trying to say; it’s all right there on the page and that gives you the courage and freedom to play with his words and characters. Actors sometimes get tricked by trying to do too much with dialogue or a monologue, but with Louis’ writing sometimes you can just say the line without thinking too much about it. And that is a sign of a great writer.

Tell us about your character and the process you underwent to find them.

BIANCA FLANDERS: I play Amelia. She’s the bride from hell! I really enjoyed the process of finding her, because she’s totally crazy and illogical most of the time so as an actor it’s a great opportunity to go totally batty. It was a bit harder for me to find the possessed version of her, because even though I play a supernatural character, I’m still human, so I had to figure out a way to transform her still using my human limitations.

CAREL NEL: I play Raymond Estevez. He is the son of a big property family and the groom at the wedding. Raymond isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but has many endearing characteristics. He loves his newlywed wife Amelia immensely and he never sees the bad in anything.

I approach every role the same, which is to find the truth and the humanity in him. I love what I do and I’m very privileged to be able to do it so I try to have as much fun as possible with every role.

* Tickets cost R160 and can be booked through the Fugard Theatre box office on 021 461 4554; or through the Fugard Theatre’s website at www.thefugard.com.