A truly gifted theatrical star

2012-03-29 00:00

CAITLIN Kilburn’s unforgettable performance as Aldonza, the prostitute and kitchen maid who Don Quixote mistakes for a lady in Man of La Mancha — which was staged at the Catalina in Durban in 2010 — was the first indication that a bright new talent had emerged on the KwaZulu-Natal theatre landscape.

Her performance also garnered the former Epworth pupil Durban Theatre Award nominations for best newcomer — female and lead actress in a musical or comedy.

After spending a year teaching English and drama in South Korea, and travelling around Thailand, Cambodia and China, she returned home in August last year and decided to settle in Durban and concentrate on her acting career.

“The trip and working overseas was beyond amazing,” Kilburn says. “I thought about going back to do another year, but then felt I couldn’t as I needed to focus on the future.”

When the theatre community heard she was home, they were quick to get in touch. Themi Venturas, her director in Man of La Mancha, approached her to play the role of Lena in Athol Fugard’s classic, Boesman and Lena, and Grant Jacobs, her co-star in Colour Me In, which is at the Catalina until Sunday, asked her to star in the play.

Her portrayal of Lena, a coloured woman trapped in a cycle of poverty and abuse, was beautifully nuanced. Using a mix of body language, facial expressions and words, she became Lena, and drew from the audience a deep empathy for what Lena has and will probably continue to experience before she makes her exit from the world.

Jacobs’ Colour Me In is a very different production. It’s a modern play about interracial relationships, and Kilburn’s turn as Lindy, the rather controlling white girlfriend, is spot on.

Commenting on the two different roles, Kilburn says: “It was the first time I’d done Boesman and Lena … we didn’t even study it, although we did do other Fugard plays. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into ... I had to put a bit of distance between me and the character, otherwise it would have been emotionally draining.

“Colour Me In is a lovely contrast. It’s wonderful to be able to do a new work. Grant created the script and the concept, and then we workshopped it with the director, Denise Lukkenaer, and got feedback from colleagues in the industry.

“Plays like Grant’s are so important … the themes are so relevant. Colour Me In speaks to the pressure which society puts on interracial couples and relationships. They are seen as not normal, deviant from the natural way of things in South Africa. It’s up to the younger generation to confront these issues.”

Kilburn, who graduated with honours from the University of KwaZulu-Natal Pietermaritzburg Drama School, is determined to be as versatile as possible, which is why she’s taken on children’s theatre with Hooked on Books, a company which tells well-known tales, without revealing the ending. The idea is to encourage young people to go and read the original book to find out what happens.

She’ll also be performing in KickstArt Theatre Company’s production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at the end of the year, during which she will understudy the role of Belle.

And even while she lived and worked abroad, Kilburn made time to tread the boards, performing in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, the 1967 play by English playwright Peter Nichols. “I played the mother of a child with cerebral palsy, whose husband goes crazy. It was one of the most stretching roles I’ve ever done,” she said.

Kilburn, who also took part in a workshopped piece called The Ravages, said it had been amazing to work alongside actors from around the world. “I was part of an acting collective in Seoul, and found it so interesting to work with people of different na­tionalities. There were Kiwis, Americans, Canadians, Australians. It was a mindblowing experience,” she added.

• Colour Me In , which is presented by TheatreGroupHeart can be seen at the Catalina Theatre in Wilson’s Wharf, Durban, at 7.30 pm from today until Saturday, and at 5 pm on Sunday. Tickets are R70 (R55 discount for students and pensioners). To book, phone 031 305 6889 or go to www.strictlytickets.co.za

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