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What better way to set the stage for an international platform such as the Olympics than with the SA/Welsh collaboration Torchbearers?
The new musical drama is a love story about loss and separation, set in SA and Wales, stretching from 1964 to the present.
Presented by The Wales Millennium Centre and the Welsh community project Valleys Kids, this cross-cultural performance fuses drama, music, circus and dance from the Zip Zap Circus, Dance for All, Amampondo and the Fezeka Choir. To be performed in Cardiff, Wales, on July 20 and 21, the story is told by the people of the SA townships and the South Wales valleys.
South Africans will get to see the production when Artscape hosts Torchbearers in November.
Written and directed by Laurence Allan, from Wales, the story centres on a Welsh actor and an African dancer who, in 1964, get to live out their dream when they win roles in the film, Zulu.
They fall in love, but are separated by the apartheid system, until fate steps in 40 years later.
Lizé Desiree Agulhas – a student from New Africa Theatre who plays the dancer’s granddaughter Lindiwe, a runner who wants to compete at the London Olympics – says she got the role by chance.
“The person who was chosen wasn’t able to do it so they called me. It’s different being chosen for something you didn’t know about. I wasn’t acting so they could notice me ,” she shyly giggles.
This past weekend she talked about the exciting opportunity to travel while working.
“It feels like I’m really Lindiwe. She gets to send a message of hope to those out there who know her.
“Her family and friends supported her before, but didn’t really know how until now.”
Her trip to Wales will be her first major performance as an actress and she believes she is ready for it.
“The actors and directors are showing me a world I never knew before. I’m being stretched and challenged. If I could get an opportunity to study in Wales that would be great.”
Shaun Gabriël Smith, who plays the spirit leader of the dream-catchers, says: ”I worked as a resident stage manager and I was serving coffee to the Welsh director. None of the actors they auditioned were interesting. My director told them about me and they gave me 30 minutes to prepare. I went in to audition and they immediately told me I’d got the part.
“It’s been hectic. I have a lot of text to say and most of the rehearsals I do on my own as my supporting characters are in Wales. My character dies in the Soweto uprising and my aim is to reunite my family.
“My daughter is chosen to run in the Olympics and it’s a chance for my mother to meet her long-lost lover and for my daughter to meet her Welsh grandfather.”
This production includes up to 200 performers and musicians from both countries and boasts a cast of eight professional actors.
SA and Welsh performers have been hard at work with rehearsals since April at the Artscape Theatre and the Zip Zap Circus tent.
Dance For All founder Philip Boyd, the artistic director for Torchbearers, and his team of instructors started the workshop process in December.
“It’s a big artistic team with the choreography, singing and dancing. All the sections have been quite difficult to put it all together.
“We’ve been corresponding through Skype meetings and e-mailing every day. The music was sent to choreograph to.
“They’ve been very open to suggestion with the artistic energy and everybody has been a part in the creative process.”
The SA team will arrive in Wales two weeks prior to the performance to rehearse with their counterparts.
This won’t be just a once-off performance; Boyd is talking about future collaborations: “There is a very good dance company in Wales and we approached a dance choreographer and this could lead to other things.”
• See www.mzansicymru.org