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It’s almost impossible to believe that a successful stage partnership like that of Sandra Prinsloo and Marius Weyers took almost 30 years to reunite.
From the late ’60s to 1986, the last time they appeared together (“there were a few other times like with a production of Op Soek na Generaal Mannetjies Mentz, but it wasn’t in partnership”, says Prinsloo), they have been looking.
This is a couple who starred in plays like Die Laaste van die Takhare, Vasvat van ’n Feeks (a brilliant translation of Taming of the Shrew), Siener in die Suburbs, which was also turned into a movie, TV projects like Manie van Rensburg’s The Mantis Project, of course The Gods Must Be Crazy and their last stage production as starring couple, Hamlet. They dominated as celebrated actors not only because they worked so well together, but also because of their acting stripes. It’s not often that two actors come together in this kind of way where the one contributes and sometimes enhances the other’s performance.
Two years ago, while playing at the Edinburgh festival, Prinsloo saw And No More Shall We Part (Vir Ewig en Altyd, translated and directed by Hennie van Greunen) and knew she had found something special.
And starting again with Weyers was as if they had never stopped performing together. “It was like riding bike,” says Prinsloo. When those wheels are so well oiled, it’s simply a matter of getting back on.
“We understand each other’s rhythms,” says Weyers, who has loved tackling these parts with someone he is so familiar with.
As these things go, while waiting so many years, two plays suddenly crept up on them. At the Klein Karoo Arts Festival, where Vir Ewig en Altyd premiered, Weyers replaced another actor in Wie’s Bang vir Virginia Woolf? as the other half of the dysfunctional husband and wife team in Edward Albee’s masterpiece – smartly translated by Saartjie Botha and directed by Christiaan Olwagen.
It’s a play that hasn’t been scheduled yet for another run, but if you spot it anywhere don’t miss out on this classic contem- porary production that proves why this is such a power couple on stage.
When you see Vir Ewig en Altyd, it’s a no-brainer that this is the perfect vehicle to reunite these old friends. A play by Australian Tom Holloway, it deals with endings – the way partners have to take leave of one another.
But apart from the tough emotional journey the pair had to take, the text didn’t make it any easier. “It has a lot of repetition,” says Weyers, who always has his wife Yvette on hand to help him get these tough parts down pat. But to exacerbate the situation, because Prinsloo is in a bed most of the time, there aren’t any physical cues which help guide the text. It was a struggle and Weyers, who was learning the Albee text at the same time, thought ageing had finally caught up with him.
So did Prinsloo as she battled to get this one running smoothly. She usually has about four texts lying dormant in that pretty head because she has such a strenuous schedule (Die Leo’s, Oskar en die Pienk Tannie and The Sewing Machine in both English and Afrikaans), it made this such a tough ride. “It’s also dealing with huge emotional and philosophical issues,” says Prinsloo. She recalls that, in the past, the only time she struggled with such a tough text was with Cocteau’s The Human Voice, which didn’t give any clues either to help her learn it by heart.
But these are old pros – they know the drill and they will walk the walk. But they were relieved to discover it was the text rather than anything else turning this into a tough ask.
Vir Ewig en Altyd will be travelling the country from festival to festival and possibly other venues, and it will grow as the two actors explore and evolve in these particular roles. It’s been a magical experience to have them back on stage together in both plays and they should be seen around the country.
What makes it all so exciting is that the two plays are so cleverly juxtaposed in what they ask of the couple. With Virginia it is a battle for control between a husband and wife who have turned their marriage into a terrifying game, while Vir Ewig en Altyd is a war of a different kind as two united souls consider their lives apart. It’s not that they have a way out, it’s a process for both individuals as they come to terms with a different future.
Both plays demand vulnerability from the actors that these two seasoned players provide powerfully, and that has been a joy to watch. It’s about seeing masters at work.
This acting duo grew up on the stage at a time when the performance arts councils were flourishing, and they realise how much they benefited from the kind of ensemble work that was encouraged as the same core group worked together time after time.
But that’s also been part of the process in Virginia with two young actors forming part of the ensemble bringing layers to all the performances with each performance. “It’s such a relentless journey,” says Prinsloo of the classic work, but they could form a tight group and bring it to life – and they have, magnificently.
For Prinsloo and Weyers this coming together has been a glorious thing and audiences are reaping the rewards. It is the best of partnerships. They work perfectly individually, but have such fun together when given the opportunity – and it’s that exhilaration that explodes on stage.
• Vir Ewig en Altyd will also be seen at festivals including Innibos, Vryfees, Kalfiefees, Aardklop and next year’s Woordfees.