They’ve got a feel for theatre

2013-07-11 00:00

THE Rainbow Young Performers’ Project has given three young Pietermaritzburg girls the chance to shine.

Russell High School pupils Nkululeko Ngayo, Ntokozo Ndlovu and Thandeka Mazibuko are currently starring in Can You Feel It? at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre in Durban.

The show, which is built around the music of Michael Jackson, tells the story of triumph in the face of adversity.

Nkululeko (17), who lives in Imbali, said she had heard about the project — which has previously staged musicals, including Seussical and Hairspray — and had always wanted to be involved.

“This is my matric year, and the last time I’d be able to take part, so that’s why I auditioned,” she said. “I have learnt to work as a team, as I have never worked with such a large group of people. This is also the longest run of any show I’ve done before, so I’ve learnt how to be consistent.”

Nkululeko plays one of the key roles in the show, that of Billie Jean, the mother of the main character, Ben, an orphan, who is placed in a home and runs away as he becomes unhappy.

He lands up on the streets and at the mercy of a drug kingpin, played by the play’s only professional actor, Rory Booth (Beauty and the Beast, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and the Bob and Rob shows).

“Billie Jean dies near the beginning, then I come back as a ghost to warn other characters not to stay in an abusive relationship, like I was in in the beginning,” Nkululeko said.

The talented actress, who has appeared in Russell High’s dance routines for Funk for the past three years, said that being part of the project was very important for young people.

“It allows young people to learn new skills and find new talents. It also keeps kids off the street and away from temptations like drugs and alcohol,” she added.

When she finishes school, Nkululeko would like to study dramatic arts at the Howard College campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and says she is keen to become a film and theatre director.

Ntokozo, a Grade 12 pupil, who also lives in Imbali, said she decided to audition for Can You Feel It? because she wanted to extend her theatrical experience. “I’ve heard and I’ve seen many people succeeding in this industry and they were part of Rainbow Young Performers’ Project in their school years. I wanted to have the same experience,” the 17-year-old said.

Like Nkululeko, Ntokozo is something of a Funk veteran, having taken part in the annual dance extravaganza at Hilton College in 2011, 2012 and 2013. She has also starred in Russell’s production African Odyssey and in plays in her local community.

Asked what being part of a semi-professional production had been like, she said: “In this show I’ve learnt how the professional world works in this industry and I’ve learnt different styles of theatre.

“Being part of a musical really has had a very positive impact in my life and I know it’s what I want to do after school.”

Asked why she thought the project was important, Notokozo, who plays the role of Spliff, said: “It keeps young people out of bad things and helps them to do something good that will have a positive impact on their lives and on people around them.”

Co-star Thandeka, meanwhile, says the biggest lessons she has learnt from being part of Can You Feel It? are self-discipline, teamwork and that in the professional world, you have to do your best all the time.

Explaining why she decided to audition, she said: “I wanted to expose myself to the professional world of performing arts because I’ve realised how much I love this industry [and I] thought I’d have to start somewhere.”

Thandeka, who has previously performed in the school production Mama Earth and in Funk, said the project was important because it helped young people to decide whether or not to become part of the theatre world.

“You also strengthen your weak points, for example my strength is acting, yet I’ve grown vocally because of Desire Govender, our vocal instructor,” she added.

Thandeka plays Jack, a character she says is very different from herself. “We’re total opposites … [but] I find it fun to play that character,” she added.

As for what she plans to do after school, the 18-year-old Grade 12 pupil, who lives in Ashdown, says she hopes to study architecture because she loves drawing and designing.

“But I’d also love to study drama because it is also my passion ... I’ll have to deliberate between the two,” Thandeka said.

Can You Feel It?, which is written and directed by Peter Court and Charon Williams-Ros, is presented by the Performing Arts Network of South Africa KZN (Pansa) and sponsored by Rainbow Chickens.

The show is at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre in Durban until July 14. Booking is through Computicket.

• arts@witness.co.za

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