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Diversity is what it’s all about, says Pieter Bosch Botha and as the son of two actors, he is adept at playing the game. It doesn’t make it easier, but at least he has always been au fait with the rules.
Like his latest theatre production, Fully Committed, which opens at Sandton’s Old Mutual Theatre on the Square tonight, that’s exactly what he is as an artist.
In the past few years we have seen his work mostly as director-writer (Hats, Rose Red, Swoop), so it’s going to be fun to experience his extrovert side for a change. And he’s going big. Not only is he the solo star of the show, he is also playing 36 characters in only 60 minutes.
“When I stand in the wings and the opening music starts playing, it’s a bit like the big metal wheels of a train start rolling,” he says.
But he loves wearing his acting shoes again. It also helps his future work as a director, because it keeps him on his toes. “It reminds me how far I can push an actor and when to hold back,” he says. “Sometimes as actors we need to breathe and sometimes as directors, we forget that.”
It is also his first solo perform-ance and the script was picked up by his mother Annelise Bosch, who with husband Arnold runs a bed and breakfast in Paternoster.
An American actor staying there heard about her acting son and left the script as a gift.
“I don’t know why he had this on him, perhaps Americans travel around with scripts,” says Pieter (pictured). But, having read and loved it, he also knew at the time he wasn’t ready.
More recently when he was scratching around for something to do, his mom suggested that perhaps it was time. The piece is Becky Mode’s Fully Committed, which runs until March 9 directed by Megan Furniss, who Pieter describes as her own comic production house, as she performs live as well as in little movies on her blog. “She has such a good understanding of comedy.”
Even though he won an award at the Johannesburg School for the Arts for Best Comedy Performance, he hasn’t done anything funny since. He describes this show as 36 characters bantering between themselves. “When I reconsidered and went back, something in the script struck,” he says. And while they’ve referenced locally, nothing had to change in the script.
“We’re not talking about a groundbreaking play here, it’s really a piece that’s more about the performance,” he says.
But it is funny and it does allow audiences to sit back, breathe more slowly and enjoy. It’s set in a rest-aurant basement and the main character, Sam Cooper, is an out-of-work actor who is taking bookings on the red-hot reservation line at Cape Town’s number one restaurant. Already that leads up and down and sideways to many different alley-ways. “We’re also dealing with a chef from hell (Ramsay eat your heart out),” he says.
With food and restaurants part of the theatrical world, people will be thrown into the thick of things as Pieter takes us into a familiar world where many characters will probably be recognisable. “We kept one or two American characters, but some were just delicious to transpose,” he says. He did only six performances in Cape Town a while back, but they were very well received and he’s planning to take the show to this year’s National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. “It helps if there’s a good audience because it’s the kind of theatre that needs the response,” he says.
Performing on your own can be a lonely experience, but once Pieter is on stage, it’s a bit like someone who has a multi-personality disorder.
He loves the content, because there’s no agenda, no politics and no message. All of that has a place, but he’s enjoying the gimmick of performing with this kind of intensity. He has no costume changes, so literally, it’s his face, body and voice he has to play with.
On the side, he has many different projects on the boil. He’s hoping that he is invited to join other projects as well and he has promised himself not to tackle too much this year.
It is a freelance hazard, that balance of not taking every job but having enough money to pay the rent. But he wants to focus on quality, one thing at a time.
Crazy as it sounds, he feels that this is a good time for theatre. There’s a buzz among young voices and exciting things are emerging all across the country. I agree. Watch this space.