It’s a young little company, but Rust Co-operative is going places. Ireland, to be exact. And Stellenbosch, Grahamstown and back to Cape Town again at some point, writes Theresa Smith.
Nominated for the Rosalie van der Gucht Prize in the new directors category at the Fleur du Cap, as well as best actor and supporting actress categories, The View is what’s taking Rust Co-operative overseas, but there’s also …Expectant and the forthcoming An(t)oniem, which makes it debut at Woordfees next month.
Started at the beginning of last year by Capetonians Penny Youngleson and Philip Rademeyer, the theatre company is both a platform for their own work and a space for like-minded artists to co-operate on theatre making in mutually beneficial ways. And the “rust” part of the name came about simply because they like the idea of textured weathered rust.
“If something is perfect and polished, it doesn’t have much to say,” explained Youngleson.
The 26-year-old majored in scriptwriting and cabaret at Stellenbosch and did her Honours in theatre directing and a Master’s at UCT in theatre making. She specialised in gendered representation of white English-speaking women in a post-apartheid context, which is a mouthful, but if you watch the dark comedy …Expectant you’ll get where she is going with that specialisation.
“It (…Expectant) is about reperforming realities. It came out of that, who we are and how we are constantly performing for each other on a daily basis. So when are you actually yourself?
“It’s about this woman who describes herself as a pastel-coloured placebo who doesn’t really know what she’s good for,” explained Youngleson.
Rademeyer, 27, did a BA at Ohio Wesleyan University in the US, his Honours in drama and a Master’s at UCT and his area of focus was the creation of a queer directorial aesthetic
“A lot of our stories are to do with outsiders or misfits, with people who don’t feel comfortable in their own skin,” said Youngleson.
“The View, …Expectant, An(t)oniem coming up, it’s all about people who are on the margins of society,” he explained.
Youngleson half-jokes that Rademeyer (who directed The View) writes most of their work because they can’t afford a scriptwriter.
“I’ve always enjoyed writing, so I felt confident about the piece as I was writing it, but you never know,” he said about the six months it took to write and rewrite the word-heavy short drama.
They attribute part of The View’s success (and that of their other work) to savvy casting. Though it opened to strong reviews he still wants to tweak it a bit before the Ireland production, when Roelof Storm takes over from Gideon Lombard (who has previous commitments).
Storm is also a Fleur du Cap nominee for most promising student, so this remains an award-winning play, Youngleson pointed out.
They co-wrote An(t)oniem, though she was the one who did the practical research by going on blind dates generated by an online dating site.
The bilingual “anti-romantic comedy” is about two people who try to find a potential partner and it is aimed at two demographics – 16 to 30 – as it is based in the world of online dating.
“So it’s speaking to a technological fluent age. It’s bridging those two age gaps between who you are online, being a sort of superhero version of yourself, you put your best foot forward, and then actually being faced with the reality of meeting someone in real life, but feeling somewhat less than up to the task,” she said.
The comedy is bilingual but in two streams, with a little bit of mengtaal thrown in for veracity.
“The one character is English and the other Afrikaans. The English character is the woman, who chooses to speak Afrikaans online to have a sense of anonymity.
“Obviously the title is a play on anoniem which means ‘anonymous’ and antonym, which means ‘opposite’. A lot of it has to do with cultural identity and language; his stuff especially has to do with being an Afrikaans person and what that means, and how that impacts on his masculinity, for instance,” she said.
• An(t)oniem is at Woordfees (Friday at 8.30pm and Sunday at 10am at Klein Libertas Teater); Alexander Bar in Cape Town in June, and Grahamstown at the National Arts Festival in July.
The View travels to the Inter-national Dublin Gay Theatre Festival in May and Grahams-town on the Cape Town Edge in July. ... Expectant travels to Grahamstown (as part of Cape Town Edge) in July.