HEARTBREAKING: Rehane Abrahams in Die Dans van die Watermeid.
HEARTBREAKING: Rehane Abrahams in Die Dans van die Watermeid.
Pictures: Nardus Engelbrecht
Pictures: Nardus Engelbrecht
HEARTBREAKING: Rehane Abrahams in Die Dans van die Watermeid.

Since returning to Cape Town in 2014, Rehane Abrahams has worked to promote the respect, celebration and safety of women and young people through her first love: the performing arts.

After spending four years in Java and then seven years in Bali, Indonesia, the South African actor, writer, director and theatre-maker is ecstatic to be home and pursuing her passions - the arts and women’s issues.

Abrahams returns to the stage as one of the lead characters in a riveting new Afrikaans drama, Die Dans van die Watermeid (The Dance of the Water Maiden), at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio until November 25. This has given her the opportunity to work with a dynamic new voice in theatre, 27-year-old playwright Amee Lekas.

Lekas’s Die Dans van die Watermeid was chosen for development at the Kunste Onbeperk’s inaugural Teksmark initiative last year. Her debut script was selected at a presentation of short extracts by the Nasionale Afrikaanse Teater-inisiatief (NATi) and the Baxter Theatre Centre and will now be brought to the stage as a full-scale production with a stellar cast, directed by Jason Jacobs.

Abrahams leads the ensemble in the role of Kim, alongside Abduragmaan Adams (Suidooster, Noem my Skollie), Elton Landrew (Kat and the Kings, Boesman and Lena), Ephraim Gordon (Die Laaste Karretjiegraf, Blood Brothers), Gretchen Ramsden (Portret, Agamemnon) and Celeste Matthews-Wannenburgh (Suip!, District Six: The Musical).

Die Dans van die Watermeid is a heartbreaking story set in the arid Klein Karoo where Lekas grew up. It offers a unique look at the people from the region and how they hold on to superstitions in spite of the influence of the church, in a script that is powerful, without undermining the inherent simplicity. It also addresses social issues, such as the struggle of the youth without the prospect of a job or a better life, while these communities sweep things under the carpet. Meanwhile, the rhythm of the water maiden dance reverberates with the promise of deliverance when the rain comes.

“I was strongly drawn to the role of Kim in this play. She is fractured and vulnerable, almost like a Tennessee Williams character,” says Abrahams. “It is very rare that a strong Coloured female role is so well written and Amee Lekas has done an excellent job with this debut text - it almost feels to me as if she is following the legacy of Reza de Wet. This is certainly one of the most exciting roles that I have played and I am looking forward to it. I am excited by spirited and complex female characters.”

Most recently Abrahams was seen in Womb of Fire, which examines the performing female body as the site of disruption where the body itself challenges the borders and boundaries of the body politic, using a non-Western mythical frame. It travels to the International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFOK) in January 2018.

Abrahams has always been intrigued by different Asian cultures. While she was living in Java she studied and performed classical Javanese dance, did several site-specific performances and started her own company.

During this period she started a theatre collaboration with the MotherTongue Project (which she co-founded in Cape Town and still serves on the board) and a Canadian NGO. The project specifically focused on women who were cross-border-trafficked from Kalimantan, Indonesia to Malaysia.

While in Java the country was hit with one of the biggest and worst earthworks in recent history. “I woke up at around 5am one morning and thought that we had been hit by a volcano. However, suddenly I saw my house split into two and soon realised that it was an earthquake. It was quite terrifying,” says Abrahams. Following this, she spent much of her time working in post-earthquake trauma with children through the arts.

Not long after this she cut off her dreadlocks, removed her nose piercing and moved to Bali where she directed musicals and six Shakespeare productions with schools and started a theatre company called Fire Fly.

After more than a decade in Indonesia and Bali, it was time to return home with her husband whom she met in Bali. Rehane has a close relationship with her family - she is the daughter of the famous Cape Malay chef and foodie Caz Abrahams.

Over the years Rehane has performed in productions such as Romeo and Juliet at Maynardville, directed by Clare Stopford, Magnet Theatre’s Voices Made Night and What the Water Gave Me, directed by Sara Matchett.

The serene, youthful actress is looking forward to tackling yet another role which shows the resilience of the female spirit and a community.

* Die Dans van die Watermeid opens tonight at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio and runs until November 25. Booking is through Computicket, Shoprite or Checkers.