WHILE many anxiously await the start of the 2014 National Arts Festival, theatre lovers in Durban who aren’t making the great trek to Grahamstown can look forward to a host of productions that will tour the city after their festival run.
One such production is Oom Schalk, from the Heart, which sees Cape Town actor David Muller (pictured) bringing raw theatre at its best to local stage.
A celebration of Herman Charles Bosman stories, Oom Schalk, from the Heart will be staged at the Seabrooke’s Theatre in Musgrave from July 15 to 26.
Five of Bosman’s celebrated works feature in Oom Schalk, from The Heart. They are: the whimsical Veld Maiden; the touching In the Withaak’s Shade; the hilarious A Bekkersdal Marathon; The Gramophone, a macabre tale about a hot-headed husband and Willem Prinsloo’s Peach Brandy.
Directed by Celia Musikanth, Muller’s one-hander enjoyed acclaim when it was staged at the Kalk Bay Theatre in March this year.
Tonight caught up with Muller – who previously lived in Durban and was part of the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre Company back in the 80s – to find out more about his passion for Bosman’s works.
“He’s probably Africa’s best short story writer. When Patrick Mynhardt passed on in 2007 (the South African theatre icon famous for portraying Bosman’s character, Oom Schalk Lourens, on stage), there was a gap in that there was nobody promoting his work through story telling.
“There were a couple of other actors doing award-winning stuff like David Butler who did A Teacher in the Bushveld, but he and (director/ writer) Nicky Rebello and (actress) Jennifer Steyn did stuff about the man, Herman Charles Bosman. But nobody has taken over where Patrick left off, and I think it’s important that people see that this man’s writing really comes alive when it’s put on stage,” he explained.
“People come away thinking, ‘was that in English or in Afrikaans?’, because he writes Afrikaans in English… All the work he does, Bosman wrote in English. He knew he’d get a broader readership if he wrote in English, but he wrote it so that an Afrikaaner could understand him. It’s amazing. He had such an eye for human behaviour.”
Muller said he chose to incorporate the works in this play because of their popularity and their stories: “In the Withaak’s Shade and A Bekkersdal Marathon are the most popular. Everybody loves A Bekkersdal Marathon. When I first read it I thought it’s just slapstick humour,… but Bosman is making a huge comment about a religion. It’s wonderful, so clever, so subtle, so understated, and… also very funny.
“The leopard (in In the Withaak’s Shade) is an amazing story; it’s also funny and interesting with a poignant twist in the end that leaves people gobsmacked.
“Veld Maiden has a lot of poetry in it, beautiful lines, told by an artist who’s just come down to the Groot Marico. He lives in a tent on Schalk Lourens’s farm and he falls in love with the next door neighbour’s wife… Gramophone is very gothic and quite ‘skriky’. Willem Prinsloo’s Peach Brandy is a love story which Oom Schalk gets involved in and it entails a white rose, which appears out of nowhere in his hands on stage. I’ve had people gasping when they see the rose,” he said.
With just a mug of mampoer (a home-made brandy), his pipe and his hat, Oom Schalk is set to bring Durban some of the best stories and minimalistic theatre on offer.
• Oom Schalk, from the Heart runs at Seabrooke’s, Tuesdays to Saturdays, July 15 to 26, at 7pm. Tickets are R80 a person, with discounts for block bookings, pensioners and students. To book, call Ailsa on 083 250 2690.