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GROWING up in Paarl, all the boys in Ephraim Gordon’s neighbourhood would gather at one time or another at the kragboks (mains box).
Here’s where you learnt to read your first words (danger/gevaar/ ingozi) and where you would meet your best friends to set off on secret raids into the next-door neighbour’s backyard orchard.
It is the place where characters meet in the play Kragbox, which starts this week at Artscape and stars Gordon and Dann-Jacques Mouton.
“That name also came out because we had a kragboks in the play and we needed a name. Also, it’s this physical theatre play, it’s packed full of krag,” said Gordon.
This is the play’s second iteration; their first foray was under the directorship of Francis Marek as part of the Now Project through Magnet Theatre, though it was eventually cancelled because of funding issues.
Gordon has been working with Magnet Theatre for the past two-and-a-half years, on and behind stage, alongside Mouton, especially on Die Vreemdeling, which they toured extensively to communities along the N7.
“There’s no fourth wall,” Gordon said, describing the interactive experience of audiences who literally talked to the characters mid-performance.
“Some child will run across the field… The people are part of the performance and that’s a different culture to when you go to a big establishment.
“In a place like that, you can’t ignore the audience. If the audience speaks to you, you must speak back as the character. So, it stretches you as the character because you are moving from simply just doing your thing to including the audience. But you go to tell a story, so the bottom line remains the same.”
Working on Kragbox, though, was a different job as they created it through a workshop process last year. “It was this whole idea of doing a play but not a play, theatre but not theatre, about Cape Town,” explained Gordon.
“There was this one scene DJ [Mouton] had, part of the experience in Cape Town, that Mark [Fleishman] quite liked. From that we developed this play. The idea was sparked by DJ’s little scene – from that idea we workshopped a story.”
They did get a chance for a short three-day run, with the preview ironically starting on the same day the army moved into Lavender Hill last year to quell gangster violence.
“The fact is, it is the reality and the unfortunate part is when you live on this side of Cape Town [in the city bowl] you don’t have to engage with it.
“I don’t think at the start of it we set out saying, ‘we want to educate Cape Town about the Cape Flats’, it’s just a story both of us were exposed to, both of us experienced growing up,” he explained.
The characters meet at a young age and the play delves into their friendship: “Their reality of growing up in Lavender Hill and being exposed to gang activity at a young age and graduating into a life of crime without having made a conscious decision.
“It’s a story of innocence, friendship, betrayal, love, manhood… in the sense that the two boys are growing up in this environment where man is not supposed to show certain emotions, so every time it feels like…they love each other because they’re best friends… but, there are no conventional ways of showing emotion, so they cut themselves off every time.”
Director Fleishman now takes the reins of the dark comedy, which doesn’t make use of any props.
“We create everything, we play different characters. This will travel very well, because we don’t have big sets, just two actors on a stage,” Gordon grinned.
While he is first and foremost a performer, the 24-year-old is stretching his wings a bit as he will soon be going to Joburg to learn more about tv directing and in a few months he’s turning his attention to scriptwriting.
“I want to make a career out of this industry,” said Gordon.
• Kragbox is on at the Artscape Arena, 8.15pm, Thursday to September 1, with a 3pm show on Saturday and a 7.30pm show on August 28.