Legends of the stage to delve into the humanity behind homelessness

Legends of the stage to delve into the humanity behind homelessness

Artscape will pay homage to two exemplary veterans in local theatre with the production ‘Hertzog Boulevard’, starring local legends Ivan Abrahams and SAFTA (South African Film & Television Awards) Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Thoko Ntshinga.

‘Hertzog Boulevard’, directed by Fatima Dike, is both a tragedy and a love story, but it is also a humorous reminder of the fragility of our ideals. Who are the forgotten and over-looked people who live on Cape Town’s streets and how do they get up every morning to spend another day searching for food in dustbins and begging for money to buy a drink, and how different are they really to those of us who spend our days in the more acceptable parts of the city?

Lazarus (played by Abrahams) has just returned to his old stomping ground after spending time in Pollsmoor prison for attempted murder. While incarcerated he converted to Christianity and became a preacher, but back on the streets he is forced to question whether he really changed as much as he thought he had. He is re-discovered by his oldest friend, Dorcas, (Ntshinga) who is a harsh realist, but fiercely protective of her long-time partner. Together they share the tragedy and humour that reside so close together for Cape Town’s “bergies”. Hertzog Boulevard is directed by the award-winning Fatima Dike.

Peter Tromp had a chat with Thoko Ntshinga on the eve of the production landing on the planks.

Congratulations on your lifetime achievement award that you received earlier this year. Please tell us about the honour and what it means to you professionally, and also personally.

I have always felt that it is best to be honoured while still alive so you can enjoy looking back at your journey and reflect. This industry is hard and to keep the momentum one has to keep working, creating, performing and doing almost everything that has to do with it professionally. I must say I am still excited. All the young artists who come into my office insist on taking a picture with the award.

You’re back on stage in ‘Hertzog Boulevard’. Tell us about the production: the story, your character and your co-star.

We drive by on a daily basis and we see people living on the streets. De we ever wonder what puts these people in these conditions? Everyone has a story to tell and in this play, Patrick Cairn takes us through the journey of two people who met under the bridge and have been together for more than 15 years. The director Fatima Dike says ‘living under the bridge does not necessarily label you as a dirty person’. Dorcas is just that lady who refuses to change her circumstances even though some opportunities have been presented to her.

Working with a veteran like Ivan Abrahams is pure genius. We look at each other and know where exactly these two people are and what their pain is about, but we both know we have to tell these two stories with dignity. Fatima is a great director and pays so much attention to detail. We can’t wait to open the show.

How have you gone about bringing your character to life? Is your process different now compared to earlier in your career?

As mentioned above, it pays to work with an experienced director. Approaching this character has been scary and unsettling. How do you really understand the journey without visiting the space? Earlier in my career I worked on a lot on Protest Theatre. I think this has sharpened my senses and made me pay attention to a lot of things about the play as well as the character. I think in my work, a lot is incorporated to make sure we bring the best out of the script.

* Hertzog Boulevard can be seen at the Artscape Arena nightly at 7.30pm from November 21 to 24.