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SONIA Esguiera (pictured) loved the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. She loved it so much she earmarked passages and eventually decided that she, too, simply had to go to an ashram in India to seek spiritual enlightenment and make a side-trip to Bali because that was clearly where she’d find “the one”.
“I only lasted for four days,” she said about the ashram.
“In Bali I found a bunch of single women holding a copy of Eat, Pray, Love in their hands. All desperate and sweaty.”
“We should put that in the show,” laughs director John Trengove.
I caught up with the two of them at the weekend as they were working on the set of So… You Think You Can Love, Esguiera’s new one-woman comedy which starts at the Artscape Arena this week.
She was up in Joburg early last year to start So… You Think You Can Love at Montecasino, but the version we are getting in Cape Town is different.
“It’s undergone quite a change. It has a different ending, it’s now more an amplified biography,” she explained.
Months of working on the show in Joburg gave them lots of feedback from audience members, but Esguiera has also made it more autobiographical. But it is still about dating, denial and the never-ending quest for love as she creates scenarios people can relate to, like your first heartbreak or speed dating.
“Everyone is looking for love and living with this fear of never finding ‘the one’, so even though she’s made the show very personal it has a universal quality,” said Trengove.
“She takes these uncomfortable truths and makes them funny. That’s what the show gets right.”
Esguiera has always drawn from her own experiences when creating her one-woman shows and says audiences mostly have a finely tuned sense of what’s true to her and what is poetic licence.
“It’s got to have a lot of heart. I’m an emotional creature,” she says.
What attracts most people is that they see themselves in her characters.
Known for her work on the Porra trilogy and tv (Jacob’s Cross), one of her specialities is the ability to morph into various characters right under your nose, which is physically and mentally demanding.
In addition to having good comedy timing she has a serious dramatic bent, even having won a Fleur du Cap in 2004 for best supporting actress in Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Doing the one-woman shows tends to make her want to avoid people, as she becomes inward- looking and intensely bound up in the characters.
She loves travelling, though, which means not only visiting family in the Mediterranean but going somewhere tranquil to regain her sense of humour and find inspiration for new work.
“Then, when I do a Shakespeare, I can just pitch up, do my lines and I don’t have to carry the whole load. That’s also very rewarding,” she said.
Coming back to the thought of this otherwise level-headed actress who makes a living out of pointing out the foibles of not being yourself, buying into the self-help industry, at least she has derived a new show out of the experience.
“I went there with this thing, I went off seeking the same kind of experience (as Gilbert’s in Eat, Pray, Love). I bought into it.
“I believed you have to mould yourself into this shiny person to make someone else love you. We all do it.
“And at the end of it all, you’ve discovered what?”
“You’ll just have to come and watch the show,” she says. And then bursts out laughing.
• So… You Think You Can Love runs at the Artscape Arena at 8.15pm, Tuesdays to Saturdays, until March 30. R90 to R110 at Computicket, Shoprite and Checkers outlets, or call Artscape Dial-a Seat at 021 421 7695.