IN THE early morning, 2am, when he has nothing better to do with his time, Warren Meyer is as likely to be jotting down ideas in his notebook, as taking a photo with his camera.
A professional photographer, he is also the writer and producer of Tannie Dora Goes Bos, a funny murder mystery which returns to Cape Town’s Artscape Theatre next week.
The 37-year-old Capetonian, born and bred in Kuils River, has always been an insomniac, probably because of the tens of thousands of ideas running through his brain.
“I needed a way to get all of these thoughts out of my head. I attempted to write a book. I was terrible at it,” he said ruefully.
Though his high school English teachers were always happy with his creative writing, he’s never been particularly good at descriptions.
“I can’t tell you how green the grass is or how woody the wood is.
“But, then I started looking at scriptwriting. You paint a basic picture and the director fills in the blanks. That kind of appealed to me. I could get whatever ideas out of my head, without having to create this elaborate world for the reader,” said Meyer.
He has always been interested in telling stories, ever since he was first handed a block of Lego and started creating backstories for his characters.
“Some very elaborate. It’s always been more than just playing, creating exciting stories for the characters.”
He first worked on Tannie Dora, probably in about 2001, though he cannot remember the exact inspiration for the practical auntie who confesses to murdering her neighbour.
Tannie Dora’s story was initially going to be a short film, but what started off as a casual, not so sober conversation with a friend at the Rat & Parrot in Grahamstown at last year’s National Arts Festival, got him thinking about turning it into a play.
Meyer had met Jeremeo le Cordeur when the director found out the Meyer family ran a printing company (Warren runs the digital side of the family business) and they bonded over photographs.
“Somebody had taken photos of one of his shows and I said I could do better and that’s where it started.”
Le Cordeur liked the script and things started happening quickly.
While most of the action in the play takes place in a police interrogation room, the action “flashbacks” take place at the murder scene, which doubles as Oom Willem’s shop.
The poster for Tannie Dora Goes Bos, though, references nothing of the sort. While the play is billed as a dark murder mystery, the wedding dress-wearing guy on the poster, wielding a gun, tells you it won’t be a totally straightforward affair, or does it?
“It was a gimmick, pure and simple, it was meant to attract attention.”
When Le Cordeur started joking that the antagonist, Oom Willem (who gets murdered), should perhaps be a Bill or a Billy, they started comparing the work to the Kill Bill films and the matter just took on a life of its own.
“A lot of people, when they hear the title, laugh. They’re expecting the standard, ‘oh let’s see someone slipping on a banana’ or something that takes the mickey out of the situation or a person.
“But, what I’ve always said is, ‘I don’t understand why South African film or theatre needs to be either slapstick comedy or really, really serious’.
“There’s always either some political undertone or it’s fall-on- your-face funny and I can’t understand why it’s not just pure entertainment.
“So, that’s what Tannie Dora Goes Bos is. It’s just fun. These people are living their lives and sometimes life takes over, no matter how controlling you are or how you plan, life comes around and throws you a curve ball.
“Okay, it’s deeper than that, but essentially, it’s people finding themselves in… a situation.”
The first run at the Artscape Arena was meant to be a practice run for the National Arts Festival, but they hit the ground running with favourable reviews and calls for a longer run, something no one was expecting.
“I’ve got to give it to Jeremeo and the actors because they took what I knew was a great story to a whole ’nother level.”
They have tweaked and sharpened the play for this next run, but essentially it is pretty much a finished product, not something many first-time playwrights get to boast about around these parts.
• Tannie Dora Goes Bos will form part of this year’s National Arts Festival line-up.