Unlikely friends

2013-09-11 00:00

MOST regular Witness Hilton Arts festival goers will be surprised to learn that veteran South African actress Dame Janet Suzman has never appeared at the Midlands festival.

This year, she is starring in the poignant and multi-award-winning two-hander, Solomon and Marion, which is being staged in the Grindrod Bank Theatre at Hilton College at 2.45 pm and 6 pm on Friday, 3.30 pm on Saturday and 1 pm on Sunday.

Her co-star in Lara Foot Newton’s play — which played to rave reviews at the recent Edinburgh Festival in Scotland and enjoyed sold out runs in Cape Town and Johannesburg — is Khayalethu Anthony.

They play, respectively, Marion, an ageing and heart-broken woman, and Solomon, the grandson of Marion’s former maid. He claims he has been sent to watch over the old woman.

Marion has watched her life drain away. Widowed, her son is dead, murdered, and her daughter has left the country. She, however, refuses to leave the only home she has.

As the new South Africa prepares for the World Cup finals, old divisions and suspicions seem as deep as ever, but somehow Marion and Solomon embark on an unlikely friendship.

Through delicate and careful storytelling, the audience is moved from darkness to hope, as these two injured souls search for redemption in fragile, post-apartheid South Africa.

Suzman said: “This play is about two people who cross an immense divide and become unbelievably necessary to each other.

“Lara Foot has created the most amazing piece of theatre. It is the perfect length and tells a mighty story of two unlikely people who just click.

“It is a beautiful story and has an immense, tragic centre to it. That’s why it’s so captivating.”

Suzman is an internationally acclaimed and respected South African-born actress and director.

She was made dame commander of the Order of the British Empire for her services to drama in the queen’s 2011 birthday honours, just six months after receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Cape Town for her extraordinary achievements in theatre.

The Johannesburg-born actress and niece of the anti-apartheid activist, Helen Suzman, has also twice won the Evening Standard best actress award, and received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for her first lead in the film Nicholas and Alexandra.

In a career spanning five decades, she has played almost the full list of Shakespeare’s female leads, as well as directing adaptations of Othello and The Cherry Orchard. The Sunday Times (London) hailed her performance of Cleopatra as “the greatest Cleopatra of the past 50 years”.

Having never performed at The Witness Hilton Arts Festival in its 21-year history, Suzman said she is really looking forward to the experience.

“I’m immensely looking forward to it,” she said.

“Both my brothers went to Hilton and I spent a lot of my childhood on a farm near Balgowan. I love the Midlands.”

Tickets for Solomon and Mario n, which is presented at the festival by The Baxter Theatre in Cape Town, features design by Patrick Curtis and lighting design by Mannie Manim.

Tickets cost R170. Please note: no under 13s allowed. To book, visit www.hiltonfestiv


• arts@witness.co.za

DAME Janet Suzman is among the artists and actors invited to take part in Story Sessions at the Black Coffee Stage at 11.15 am on Saturday.

This Durban initiative has had many people tell their stories, from Gcina Mhlope to Shaun Tomson, Aaron McIlroy to Margaret Hirsch.

Come and hear the story from this actress extraordinaire.

Admission is free.

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