A storyteller to the very end

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IN OSCAR and the Pink Lady, Sandra Prinsloo (pictured) doesn’t just shift between two characters – a 10-year-old boy and a grandma in pink.

Doing this play in English is a shift because she will also present it in Afrikaans for some of this forthcoming run at the Baxter.

The actress did something similar when performing in Die Naaimasjien as well as The Sewing Machine, but she never overlapped those two at the same venue or even at the same time.

Previews started on Tuesday night and Prinsloo admits she keeps on tinkering right until performances start: “It’s so hard to juggle these things, but it’s so exciting. I still keep changing a word here and there. Sometimes in rehearsals I’ll say: ‘This is not sitting right’. And then something will just come.

“I find, often, when I’m really in the character, the words that come out are the right ones. The language follows the expression of the character, when you’re not even thinking about it, and it’s lekker,” she said, taking time out of rehearsals in an interview at the Baxter.

While she is currently concentrating on the two versions of the Oscar play, Prinsloo is also in rehearsals for a forthcoming pro- duction of Seemeeu, which will travel to Aardklop in October. This is not the first time she’s done Chekhov’s Seagull in Afrikaans. This feels like a more contemporary version though to her, because of Saartjie Botha’s “very earthy, very gutsy” translation which might shake up the traditionalists up a bit.

Playing around with the language does not seem to phase her one bit, she is equally conversant in English and Afrikaans, and understands French well enough to watch plays in Paris with great relish.

She engaged in Paris, France with the original version of the Oscar play based on Oscar et la Dame Rose, a novel by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt. This was initially translated into Afrikaans, by Naòmi Morgan, a French professor at the University of Free State.

The Afrikaans version has proved to be a hit, picking up accolades and awards at arts festivals around the country since 2012 for not only Prinsloo and translator Morgan, but also director Lara Bye.

If pressed, Prinsloo would say there is a degree of difference between the characters in the different languages, depending on whether she is doing it in English or Afrikaans, but they are not miles apart: “You try to stick to the essence of the character.

“It’s still the little boy and the old lady and their relationship which is the fundamental focus of the play,” she explained.

When Prinsloo did Sewing Machine at Montecasino in Joburg she found that about 60 percent of the audience were still Afrikaans, but at the same time she does have friends who don’t speak the language at all. So, it became clear to her that there has to be plenty of potential audiences members out there who do not speak Afrikaans, which influenced her decision to do Oscar and the Pink Lady – she simply loves the story and wants to share it.

To her, Oscar is not only a sad show about a nice relationship between this boy and the older lady: “It’s about the choices the child makes, to change his own reality, to create his own reality.

“She says to him: ‘Let’s say that each day is 10 whole years of your life’. So, he has all these experiences and that’s such a magnificent idea. You can do it in life – you can change your mind.

“Because Oscar lives his whole life he has all these experiences and he comes to terms with death. It is, for me, deeply moving that a child can go there.

“It’s not a Christian play, but it is hugely philosophical,” she said.

While Prinsloo has had children come and watch the production, she does not really see it as one for children, but one that is aimed more at adults.

To her it falls more in the same category as Saint Exupery’s The Little Prince, and the original French book often is used in hospitals for parents of children with cancer.

• Oscar and the Pink Lady, the English version of Sandra Prinsloo’s award- winning Afrikaans play, Oskar en die Pienk Tannie, will be at the Baxter Golden Arrow Theatre until August 23. Five Afrikaans performances will be presented from August 5 to 9.


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