A love for the Bard’s work

2012-06-21 00:00

BENEATH the hilarity of The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)!, which is currently playing at the Seabrooke’s Theatre at Durban High School, lies a very real love for the Bard’s work.

“Because we’ve been exposed to it at varsity and since leaving varsity, we all know how amazing his work is,” says Clinton Small, one of the founding members of the Actors Unemployed Company (AUC). “To me, Shakespeare’s plays are everything that is great about acting.”

Small, who has been thrilling audiences in KwaZulu-Natal and Johannesburg for the past few years with his performances as the villainous Iago in Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello (presented by the Think Theatre Company), says his work offers actors the chance to play complex and multi-layered characters, while using beautiful language.

“I really would be happy if I could perform Shakespeare all year round,” he adds.

The AUC was born in 2007, when Small, Marc Kay and Adam Dore decided to cram as much of the Bard’s work into their heads as possible, and then busk at The Witness Hilton Arts Festival.

Their efforts proved to be a huge hit with the crowds, and not long afterwards, they were approached by friends of Kay in Namibia, who wanted to host a theatre festival at St Paul’s School and asked if they would get involved.

“We got the rights to Compleat Works, put together some workshops for the upper grades at the school, and it went well,” says Kay, “so, we approached Grahamstown and local schools to see if they were interested.”

It was the start of a journey which has seen the actors delighting patrons at the National Arts Festival, The Witness Hilton Arts Festival and, just last year, those who attended the inaugural St Thomas Aquinas School Festival in Witbank.

They’re headed back to the school in September this year, and are working on a new piece, A Guide To The Theatre, which will be similar in style to Compleat Works, but will cover other well-known theatrical works.

Asked to choose their favourite Shakespeare plays, Small, who matriculated at Kingsway High School and then studied at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Howard College campus, said: “Choosing my favourite tragedy is hard. It’s a choice between Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet, but my comedy choice would be A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Kay, who is originally from Cape Town and graduated with a degree in drama from UKZN Durban, opted for Macbeth, Richard III and The Taming of the Shrew as his favourites, while Dore, another UKZN graduate, picked Macbeth and The Comedy of Errors.

Aside from their Shakespeare parody, the AUC is also planning to present two other festival pieces in the coming weeks. Kay and Dore will be staging a new children’s show, The Pied Piper of Hamlin, at the hall at Eden College, Durban, at 10 am from July 1 to July 15.

The show, which is aimed at little ones under the age of 10, retells the story of the Pied Piper, but with a few twists. “We’ve improved on the original by giving the Pied Piper a few more challenges to deal with. There’s lots of audience interaction and a few jokes, which will appeal to adults,” Kay said.

Tickets are R40 across the board, and there is safe parking on the school field. Phone Kay at 072 435 8725 for tickets or buy them at the door.

Dore and Kay will also be staging the engaging one-hander, Birdman, which made its debut at last year’s I Love Durban Festival. Written and directed by Kay, the play tells the story of Augustus St John Merriweather, a young man who enjoys the challenge of parting people from their money.

With the advent of motor vehicles and steam trains, he believes he might just have the best idea for a con yet — getting people to invest in a plane. His idea is to get as much cash as possible from “investors” and then he and his sister, Rebecca, will leave Boston and head to the bright lights of New York City.

When, however, Rebecca leaves him because she no longer wishes to con people, it leaves Augustus distraught, angry and determined to prove her wrong.

“We’ve tightened up the script quite a bit,” said Kay, “I felt some of the writing was a bit sloppy in places. And from a directorial point of view, I wanted to reduce the monologues and have more voice overs.”

Birdman will be staged at the Catalina Theatre in Wilson’s Wharf from July 5 to July 15. Tickets are R65 (concessions available).

To book, go to www.strictlytickets. com or phone the Catalina Theatre at 031 305 6889.

• The AUC is offering Witness readers the chance to see the play free of charge tonight. The first three people to phone Marc Kay at 072 435 8725 after 9 am this morning and say “I love The Witness!”, will receive two complementary tickets each for tonight’s performance at 7.30 pm.

• arts@witness.co.za

Catch the Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)! at the Seabrooke’s Theatre at DHS at 7.30 pm today and tomorrow, and at the Catalina Theatre at Wilson’s Wharf from July 19 to July 29. Tickets are R75 (R50 for students, pensioners and block bookings), and are available for booking by phoning Seabrooke’s at 031 277 1570.

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