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Way before the world knew what a Taylor Swift is, there was a rapper who interrupted someone at an awards show and made history.
At the 1998 Grammy Awards, Wu-Tang Clan group member, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, was so outraged that they lost an award to the then-Puff Daddy that he bum-rushed the podium and told Erykah Badu (who was presenting another award) as well as the world that “Wu-Tang is for the children”.
Now, alternated with “Wu-Tang is for the kids,” this has become a popular saying when describing the hip hop supergroup. But perhaps they should expand the sentence to include kids and well-known theatre collectives.
When I ask Adrian Collins, a seasoned actor and member of The Mechanicals collective, about how one becomes a part of the crew, he exclaims: “We’re like the Wu-Tang of theatre!
“I’d be ODB, obviously,” Collins looks at me as if to accompany that declaration with a “duh” before I remind him that Wu-Tang’s Old Dirty Bastard is dead.
“Oh yeah, rest in peace,” Collins mutters. “Okay, then, I’d be The GZA. No,” he begins to laugh, “Guy de Lancey is The GZA!”
The Mechanicals’ Chris Weare, as Collins tells me later, is obviously The RZA. Collins may be a fan of old American rap, but he’s a bigger fan of SA theatre. This month, he stars at the Kalk Bay Theatre alongside Brent Palmer in the Palmer-penned dramatic comedy Bench.
About two small-time crooks who reflect on their past and ponder the future as they plot a move that is going to set them up for the big time, “Bench is a slice- of-life kind of thing.
“It’s a simple, nice, neat package that is under an hour.
“When I read the script,” he continues, “I was like, I get it, I know this, and liked that the script was not trying to be up its own a***. Sometimes scripts get too self-indulgent and as the audience, you wonder: ‘Why am I watching this?’”
Collins emphasises that whether on stage in Bench or on the big screen in the US film Chronicle, “I go from what I know.”
He uses Bench as an example: “There is a fine balance between playing a character and becoming a caricature. In Bench, you’ve heard people speaking like this and you relate to it. It’s a comedy, but you still have to be truthful. The more honest with the characters you are then the funnier it becomes. That’s where the funny begins.”
But he doesn’t always play comedic characters. He’s also starred in Shakespearean classics.
“We do Shakespeare differently, though,” he explains.
“If you saw The Mechanicals’ King Lear or Midsummer Night’s Dream, you would understand.
“Guy de Lancey directed and he twists things and makes them fun, like turning King Lear into a comedy,” he pauses, “that’s why he’s The GZA!”
Collins may be one of the funniest people around, but he takes his acting seriously, so if he’s on the Bench, then it’s because he’s the best player for it.
• Bench runs at Kalk Bay Theatre from tomorrow to October 7. Tickets are priced from R95 and are available at www.kbt.co.za