A deeply personal and touching piece of theatre

2011-10-06 00:00

DURBAN-BORN Kurt Egelhof is back in KwaZulu-Natal this week to share a deeply personal story with theatregoers at the Playhouse. He is presenting his acclaimed one-man play, For Generations, as part of the New Stages 2011 season in the Loft Theatre at 7.30 pm tomorrow, and at 2.30 pm and 7.30 pm on Saturday.

In his compelling piece, Egelhof, who attended St Augustine’s Catholic State Aided Primary school in Greyville and Parkhill Senior Secondary school in Greenwood Park, and graduated with a degree in drama from the then University of Natal, tells the story of his family.

In For Generations, the audience gets to meet Egelhof’s white musician, ­war-hero grandfather, Sonny, and his Xhosa bride, Violet; his father, Basil, who worked in the whaling station on the Bluff; his mother, Marjorie Lucas; and his sports-mad school-going ­adolescent son, Aston. He also shares snippets about himself and his experience of being a mixed-race actor and ­director in pre and post-apartheid South Africa.

Asked what had inspired him to pen such a deeply personal piece of theatre, Egelhof said: “I was motivated by a deep awakening to the potential of my life and life story, triggered by the death of Bill Flynn and my mother, within a short space of each other, back in 2007/2008.

“I saw myself as a passionate artist with so much to give, surrounded by ­reservoirs of mediocrity — simply ‘tolerating’ the environment rather than attempting to change it. So, I sat down and transformed my existential crisis into a dramatic monologue.”

Egelhof describes the one-handed staging and autobiographical nature of the work as one of the hardest things he’s ever done as an actor, director and ­producer, adding: “Trying to understand and co-ordinate some of the most private decisions made by some of the people about whom I cared the most, including myself… it was apocalyptic.”

It is the second time that Egelhof has staged For Generations in Durban. The first staging took place at the Catalina Theatre in Wilson’s Wharf in 2009. Asked what he hoped audiences would take away from the play, he said: “The fact that all human beings have the same story… private, historic and epic — for each one of us as it is for the whole of us; [and] an awareness that this apparently autobiographical piece of work is actually universally relevant to human beings — regardless of race, time, gender, religion — or any other socially engineered ­mindsets that beset the human condition.”

Tickets for For Generations are R55 and R40 (for students and pupils), and can be booked through Computicket. Please note that this play is not suitable for those under 13. • arts@witness.co.za

Five facts about Kurt Egelhof:

• He produced the historical docu-drama, Bhambatha, which was screened on SABC2 in 2007.

• A drama graduate from the class of 1980, there were only five black drama students in the University of Natal drama department. Only two graduated. Today, one is a non-practising clinical psychologist. He was the other one.

• His writing, producing and directing credits include stints on the popular soapies, Scandal and Isidingo.

• His other stage plays include Making the Lotus People , which is based on the debut novel by Aziz Hassim, which traces the fortunes, and otherwise, of two families who come to South Africa to change their destinies; and Band on the Run , the story of a bunch of musicians in South Africa in the eighties, attempting to escape the military call up by apartheid South Africa’s army.

• He lives in Cape Town and runs his own privately funded theatre, Theatre in the Muze, in Muizenberg.

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