Making cool theatre

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IOL Nagwond

DIANE DE BEER

‘We like making cool theatre,” says director Tara Notcutt, one of the leading lights of a vibrant and dynamic theatre company based in Cape Town, The Pink Couch.

Holding her tightly on either side are actors Albert Pretorius (see him in a cameo role in Die Wonderwerker) and Gideon Lombard, who was still studying when they started the company a few years back.

The two boys hit the headlines with perhaps the company’s break-out play, ‘…miskien’, and the reason it was such a hit on the festival circuit was because of the script, the performances and the directing – all three coming from a novel place and breaking new ground.

In the meantime Notcutt has been directing one play after another (six in all at the past National Arts Festival), with a new one written by Pretorius and titled ‘Nagwond’ (Night Wound) which was commissioned for Aardklop, which runs from October 2 to 7.

They describe themselves as “pretty grounded”, but also insane, and with their schedule and what they’re trying to pull off, you’ll have to be a master of all those qualities.

When speaking to them at the National Arts Festival, Pretorius was still in the process of writing ‘Nagwond’ and pretty terrified about the results, but then he should be. He is still young, inexperienced and trying to make miracles happen. But he knows that and it’s the reason they will probably pull it off – again.

‘…miskien’ is what got them noticed, but with reason because it celebrated everything these three artists are about.

Now audiences know who they are and the pressure is on. The Aardklop festival booklet describes ‘Nagwond’ thus: our days are filled with decisions, right and wrong choices that lead to joy or misery. That which we hide or show. That which we say when we’re silent or shout when we whisper. And that which turns septic when we sit alone at night, the wound starts bleeding and the masks are stripped away.”

It’s a story about characters who lose, find, save and trash one another in a sad story of being alone, together or human. It’s exactly their voice and again stars the …miskien team of Pretorius and Lombard with Cintaine Schutte adding to the mix.

As always, even if Pretorius is the playwright, it remains a collaboration and they are holding thumbs that when they like something, it will have broad appeal. So far it has worked. They have tapped into a youthful market, but because of the quality and intellect that is at the root of their work, it spans generations.

Good theatre has always been good theatre and that’s often all you need to pull in the crowds – such as there are crowds when talking theatre. Nothing comes easily and yet, the young keep joining the elite club. This trio have been clever in their approach. There’s support and innovation in their tight-knit group, a perfect coming together.

With their first production …miskien touring the world and still going strong, they could have rested on their laurels, but already they have ‘Mafikeng Road’ walking a similar route. It’s playing at Aardklop after a National Arts Festival season and touring around the country. Watch out for a theatre in your area, they might have been already, or are on their way.

The Bosman phenomenon is an extraordinary one. Patrick Mynhardt was the first one to tap into what became a hugely successful stage persona. David Butler has followed suit with a show that carries more gravitas, but is no less entertaining. The youngsters, though, wanted a different approach and what they have done is take two actors who, with the help of physical theatre, enact the Bosman stories with great gusto. Expect this one to also have legs as they tackle stories in the future. That’s my prediction.

If there’s an Achilles heel in the group, it’s the Notcutt popularity factor. Burnout is a possibility if she doesn’t watch herself.

“I had a problem saying ‘no’,” she says as she pleads guilty.

But she’s determined to strike a balance and probably that will come with more experience. It’s difficult to say “no” in a world where you’re desperately trying to make art of the heart, yet with money often trickling in.

It’s never been about money, though. They want their choices to be made for the right reasons.

“It should be about the work,” they agree and that’s why they’re so respected so early in their careers.

If all this sounds just that touch too nerdish, think again. Their shows are as sassy as they’re smart. It’s the kind of theatre that stimulates while tickling the mind and entertains. They want to think when watching theatre so that’s what they give you. They also want to work with people they respect and Pink Couch affords them that.

If you haven’t seen their work, ‘Nagwond’ is one to watch out for. Even if I have no idea whether this one will work, they’ve established a proven track record. Their work will always be worth checking out.


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