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TWO-HANDER The View is what has Rust Co-operative travelling around the world, and to The Market Theatre in Joburg.
The drama, which runs until June 29, is also garnering small-theatre company applause and awards wherever it goes.
Penny Youngleson won the Rosalie van der Gucht Prize in the New Directors category at this year’s Fleur du Cap Awards, while The View also picked up nominations in the Best Actor and Supporting Actress categories.
It’s still a young company, but Cape Town’s Rust Co-operative is going places. Started two years ago by Capetonians Youngleson and Philip Rademeyer, the theatre company is a platform for their work and a space for like-minded artists to co-operate on theatre-making in mutually beneficial ways. And the “rust” part of the name came about simply because they liked the idea of textured weathered rust.
“If something is perfect and polished, it doesn’t have much to say,” said Youngleson.
The 26-year-old majored in scriptwriting and cabaret at Stellenbosch and did her Honours in theatre directing and a Master’s at UCT in theatre-making. She specialised in gendered representation of white English-speaking women in a post-apartheid context, which is a mouthful, but if you watch the dark comedy… you’ll get where she is going with that specialisation.
Rademeyer, 27, did a BA at Ohio Wesleyan University in the US, his Honours in drama and a Master’s at UCT. His area of focus was the creation of a queer directorial aesthetic.
“A lot of our stories are to do with outsiders or misfits, with people who don’t feel comfortable in their own skin,” said Youngleson.
“The View … is all about people who are on the margins of society,” he said.
Youngleson half-jokes that Rademeyer (who wrote and directed The View) writes most of their work because they can’t afford a scriptwriter.
“I’ve always enjoyed writing, so I felt confident about the piece as I was writing it, but you never know,” he said about the six months it took to write and rewrite the word-heavy short drama.
They attribute part of The View’s success (and that of their other work) to savvy casting.
Though it opened to strong reviews he still wanted to tweak it along the way and that’s what he did, never resting on their laurels.
“The View was inspired by comments made in 2012 by an American pastor, Charles Worley, who said all gays and lesbians should be thrown into separate electrified enclosures, where they would eventually die off as they would not be able to reproduce.
“Given the severity of the homophobia, discrimination and violence faced by gays and lesbians on our continent and in our country, I imagined a future in which this kind of scenario occurs in South Africa.
“In The View we encounter one young man, who is sitting in a prison cell in space, waiting to be rescued. His final request is a video containing messages from various people in his life – family, people who helped imprison him, imaginary characters – and through his conversations with them we find out about the man’s life and relationships, and the reason for his incarceration,” said the writer.
Talking about the cast he notes that Gideon Lombard who plays the young man (for which he was nominated for a Fleur du Cap last year) – is a talented actor, director, designer, sound designer and musician. He also appeared in the acclaimed ...miskien which has toured nationally and internationally.
Lombard has worked with various directors including Janice Honeyman, Matthew Wild and Christiaan Olwagen.
“Ella Gabriel plays all other characters – 12 of them! She displays remarkable physical, vocal and emotional versatility. For her portrayal she was nominated for a Fleur du Cap for Best Supporting Actress in 2013, for Best Actress at the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival 2013,and for Best Actress at Aardklop 2013. Both Ella and Gideon are graduates from the UCT Drama Department.”
Their first few years as a company have been a steep learning curve for Youngleson and Rademeyer. The two choose to foreground being the artist, but have been forced to become producers to get their work staged.
“We knew from the start we were not going to be drawing audiences of 400 and we are okay with that. We always put being the artist first. We have to write about what touches us,” said Rademeyer.”
In between the learning, they teach (she at a school and he lectures part-time at a university), have both written a new play and been travelling with drama The View after the hugely successful National Arts Festival run in Grahamstown.
“The audience was so quiet on that first night, but people were just listening. In Cape Town we tend to rely on certain characters to break the tension and get a few laughs, but that didn’t happen.
“But, then we got standing ovations and callbacks, so it worked out,” Rademeyer said of the first winning performance of The View at the Gay Festival in Dublin.
From there it moved on to Aardklop (where it won two awards) and immediately after that to Cape Town’s Little Theatre.
The View received its fifth outing when it played at Artscape as part of the Spring Drama Festival last year.