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In limbo and in search of secrets

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TO NDR eLimboland

Val Adamson

DEAD MEN: Jem Atkins and Gabriel Miya in eLimboland.

A PRODUCTION almost two years in the making, and one which looks set to get its audience contem- plating issues of life, will open this year’s Musho! Festival.

We caught up with its writer, Gisele Turner, who explained that penning eLimboland was inspired by a personal experience.

The intriguing blurb for the production reads: In the misty borderlands of the hereafter, two men find themselves alone… and dead. In order to determine their ultimate destination, they have to uncover the secrets of their past.

Turner said the play was the result of her own experience.

“The play was primarily inspired by a need to process some issues of my own with a difficult situation I had failed to handle with the right attitude and tools, and which had left me feeling bitter, bereft and upset. I was looking for a way to rise above the situation, a philosophic solution that would free me of the residual negativity.

“But I also read the news and I had been taking note of the ways in which people die in South Africa. I liked the idea of creating a situation where two people were dead but they didn’t know how they had died or how they were connected. Hopefully, the audience will relate to some of the incidents, many of which have been culled from news reports and are based on facts.”

It’s performed by popular Durban stand-up comedian, Jem Atkins, and Gabriel Miya. Turner said there is a third “cast member”, although the play is technically a two-hander.

“Although eLimboland is a two-hander, there is a third person involved, but he is never seen. That’s the composer of the music for the play which has been specially created by saxophonist / composer Dick Hathorn. It’s not music as such, but rather a soundscape that acts as an atmospheric enhancer and I have known Dick and his approach to music for some 20 years. He has found the brief interesting and stimulating,” she said.

Turner said Philani is played by Miya: “I was impressed with his capacity to deliver the lines with natural flair, as well as his under- standing of the subtleties, so I asked him to take on the role again for Musho! Durban come- dian Atkins plays Al and brings maturity and experience to the role as well as an ability to get maximum mileage out of the comic lines. I have been really happy that Jem and Gabriel have developed a great working relationship and are enjoying the process – a really intimate photo shoot with Val Adamson broke down any possible barriers!”

On finding out that eLimboland would open Musho! this year, Turner said her “knees went weak”.

“The Musho! Festival is in its eighth year and is a really well-established platform for some of the best original one-hander and two-hander work. It’s such an honour to open this festival but it is seriously scary as well. eLimboland is fresh off the page and has literally only ever had one student performance.

“Now it will play to a discerning theatre-going audience which includes international, national and regional theatre practitioners as well as critics. And this time of the year is tricky time wise so we will be rehearsing like crazy the week before the fest and, to be honest, that’s stressful. But it is also a great opportunity to test the play and see if it has legs.”

As the writer and director of the piece, Turner said her hope is to make it “come alive”.

“Writing a play is done in a place of introspection and isolation and taking it off the page is always an exciting and challenging process. I hope that the audience will enjoy it, of course. I am nervous to give away anything that might pre- empt the dramatic climax so I don’t really want to say what I hope the audience will take away with them.

“I look forward to their response with a combination of eagerness and nail-biting anxiety. It isn’t easy to lay my work out for criticism, especially as I write critiques about other people’s work, but it’s an essential part of growing the art. Mostly I am excited for eLimboland to be part of a prestigious festival like Musho! and can’t wait for that tingling feeling when the house lights dim and the play begins.”

 

• eLimboland, January 15 at 8pm. 55 minutes. Ages 16 and up.

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