THE Americans call it the “sophomore album jinx”. It’s when an artist debuts with an outstanding album and then is under pressure to follow it up with a body of work that is equally dazzling or game-changing. But this phenomenon is not merely limited to music, it’s prevalent in all forms of art. Even in theatre.
Thankfully, Cape Town playwright Juliet Jenkins (pictured), never let her outstanding first play, The Boy Who Fell Off The Roof, jinx her second, third or more bodies of work.
“My first play was very popular with reviewers,” she tells me over breakfast on a sunny Mother City day, “and people loved the play so much that I don’t feel they’ve had a true sense of my work right now. I mean, I wrote that play when I was 23. It did feel like I would have that second album [jinx] vibe, but I know it’s about the relationship people have with art. If people feel one piece of art is important to them then that’s also alright.”
Having written stories since the age that she could make legible scribbles on paper, this award-winning young woman brings her latest play, Big Girl, to the Intimate Theatre on the Hiddingh Campus this month.
Written and directed by Jenkins and starring Daneel van der Walt, this play won an Ovation Award at this year’s National Arts Festival. A play about a giant on the run, Jenkins sounds stoked that because the character is meant to be a giant, most of the show’s props can fit into her car. But what inspired the play?
“It’s difficult to say what inspires me because everything comes from feelings,” she said. “Big Girl really developed from the feelings and the landscape that was growing in my head.”
She says this play is the third in a trilogy she has presented over the years.
“The first was More South African Deep Freezing, a collaboration with Francis Marek ‘about vampires’.”
The next play was the brilliant Poisson “which was about mermaids” and Big Girl is “about giants”.
“Big Girl plays on fantasy themes: giants and trolls,” Jenkins starts. “Our giant is on the run from the law. It’s a revelation play that is some- thing of a cliffhanger.”
Reluctant to give too much of the storyline away because the thrill of the play is in the unexpected twists and turns, Jenkins says this production is “like Thelma and Louise – because a giant is as big as two women – and it’s set in the Drakensberg. But,” she continues, “it’s summer, so she’s not that cold.”
Big Girl has a short run, but Jenkins won’t be short of work after it wraps. This administrator for the Artscape New Writing Programme also writes for radio, but says: “It’s Big Girl, baby! And after that I’m going to be quiet. I can’t think of anything else. So come to the show.”