The Clearing, an American production written by Jake Jeppson, is your everyday kitchen sink drama.
After an appearance on Broadway, the production will have a run at the Joburg Theatre, starting this week.
The production is being staged by the Performing Artists’ Theatre Organisation (Pato), an independent theatre group with performers who, while being trained thespians, are not full-time actors. The organisation was established initially in 1980 by director Johan van Rooyen.
According to Van Rooyen, the company keeps various casts of people who specifically have a passion for the arts, even though it may not be the source of their livelihood. In this particular production, some of the cast members have been with Pato for more than five years.
Pato has staged a number of award winning productions, including: ’n Seder Val in Waterkloof, Op deurreis na, Speelgoed van Glas and Dis nie my Bybie nie.
“This production company is like the old travelling companies we know. It’s a company of people who I try to work with for a period of five years. There’s always a leading lady in the group. I tend to use different genres and styles to develop them.
“It’s all qualified and professional people when it comes to theatre, but it’s not their 9-5, so they rehearse on weekends. For instance, one of my cast members is a lawyer. We do it this way to give individuals, with a love for the stage, a chance to perform,” he said.
The production is the story of the Ellis family that has been bound for over 18 years by a secret they’re hiding. The family is said to be in many ways a typical family, with an intense relationship that forces them to be a tight, close-knit family.
When a handsome stranger inserts himself into this tight-knit circle, mother and sons are forced to discover if they have the courage to shatter the bond that has kept them unmoving for two decades and risk the unknown.
“I have kept it American, it’s not transformed to a South African feel. But it’s a kitchen sink drama, that’s placed in a domestic household setting so it can be American or South African. It tells a story about families,” Van Rooyen said.
He describes himself as a “picture director” and cites his ability to visualise things as the primary determinant of how he selects a production.
What attracted him to this particular production is an image he saw of the Broadway production.
“I saw one little image, so rich in emotion and dramatic tension, and that did it for me.”
The Pato production will star Brad Nowikow, Darren Meltz, Dirk Jonker and Avrill Cameron.
For audiences who want to experience The Clearing, Van Rooyen said: “They must just think of the play’s title. The Clearing is not just the opening [an open space], it’s where you clear the emotional baggage you have with you.
“The one thing you have that’s overshadowing you. That’s the clearing. To clean up, to let go and it’s an emotional trip I’m looking forward to sharing with everyone,” he said.
* The Clearing will be showing at the Joburg Theatre fringe from October 19 to 22. Tickets are available at Webtickets or at the theatre.