Peter Tromp caught up with ace comedian/actor Alan Committie upon his return to the dramatic stage in ‘Oleanna’, which is showing at the Fugard Theatre for a limited season.
One of the strangest nights (in the best way possible) in my theatregoing career was when you hosted the Fleur du Cap Awards in 2007, and won the Best Actor award that same evening for your role in ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead’. How does it feel reflecting back on that night, and can you recall what you felt in that crazy moment?
Indeed, that was a slightly surreal evening. And one that I remember vividly. I love hosting the theatre awards evenings. It gives me a chance to be my cheeky, silly self but also be part of an amazing celebration. I honestly had no expectations of winning that night: our production was a smaller, indie venture at The Little Theatre and I was up against theatre luminaries like Sean Taylor and Jeremy Crutchley amongst others. When Tannie Evita Bezuidenhout read out my name I literally did the perfect “delayed triple take” like I was daffy Duck in a Loony Tunes adventure.
It was an incredible honour and I was thrilled that I could share it with my long time collaborator Chris Weare and my co-star Rob van Vuuren (whom I reminded for years and years that I won and he did not. He needed to hear that. For his own good. And growth. He needs growth. I’ve seen gnomes with more height)
Since then, we haven’t seen you attempt too many dramatic roles. What was the chief inspiration behind this return in your thespian guise?
The idea was to tackle a play every 12 to 15 months in between the stand-up, TV and writing. I managed three farces and directing a couple of pieces, but somehow the next meaty text kept evading me. So when this opportunity presented itself I was thrilled. I love Mamet and this particular play is not only a treat to tackle, but has some powerful resonances in a 2018 world.
Tell us about ‘Oleanna’: your character, how you have prepared and what audiences can look forward to with the production.
Written back in 1992 by one of America’s foremost playwrights (David Mamet) it’s a two hander that tackles the power struggle between a college professor and his student. What starts as an innocent discussion around grades and then the nature of education quickly escalates into something far more disturbing. Allegations are made, tempers flare and the audience is asked to view the events before them and decipher what transpired and who was in the wrong.
As an ex-teacher it was fascinating to explore my character (John) and to reflect on how educators use status and language to create control and supposed understanding in a classroom environment. The teacher plays parent, disciplinarian, friend, confidante, psychologist, nurse and many other roles.
The strength of this play is that it divides an audience and compels stringent debate. We see things through our own lens. And it is coloured by our opinions, experiences and background. Are we able to put that aside and see the events from another point of view?
Is there a dream role that you’re yet to attempt that would bring you back to the “dramatic planks”, no hesitation, were you offered it?
You better believe it! I am about two weeks away from announcing one of them. It’s a part I have been wanting to tackle for 20 years now. That production will happen early in 2019. But there are other great roles that I would love to still do, including Salieri in Amadeus and Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.
* Book via the Fugard Theatre box office on 021 461 4554, or online at www.thefugard.com.