Kumseela Naidoo
Kumseela Naidoo

Theatre a magic pill for kids, adults

By Latoya Newman Time of article published Jan 5, 2015

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Actress, comedienne, writer and director, Kumseela Naidoo, of the Dingalings Company, won the coveted Theatre Personality of the Year Award at the Mercury Durban Theatre Awards late last year. Latoya Newman caught up with her, after a busy festive schedule for the company, to learn her thoughts on the win and more…

WHEN she was announced as winner of the Audience Vote Award, the first thing that came to mind for the bubbly and always funny Kumseela Naidoo was: “Yay! I beat Koobie and Senzo,” she l laughs, referring to her husband, actor and comedian Koobeshen Naidoo, and popular funnyman Senzo Mthethwa (all three from the Dingalings crew).

Kumseela’s involvement in theatre goes back many years as she explains where the foundations were laid: “I’ve been involved in theatre since about the age of 10. My parents made a point of ensuring that our creative education was also catered for with dance and drama classes and regular visits to the then Alambra Theatre. So I think I owe my interest in the magic of theatre to my parents,” she smiles.

And as destiny would have it, theatre was to be a strong pillar in her future as well: “The magic, of course, continued when I met the love of my life (Koobeshen) in a children’s production of Toad of Toad Hall at the drama department at University of Durban Westville. It was all a whirlwind from then with student productions of Animal Farm, Macbeth, To Be or Not to Be… this was also when we met our current director at Dingalings, Yugan Naidoo,” she explained.

Kumseela has had her hand in a number of pots over the years when it comes to the production of theatre for children and adults. She wrote and directed Boolulu Uncle for the Musho Festival and the recent sequel, Return of the Boolulu Uncle, which staged at the Playhouse.

She recently directed the hit Dingalings shows The Long and Short of It and What Women Want and scooped the lead role in Ronnie Govender’s Botoo, a performance for which she drew wide acclaim.

Offstage Kumseela has raised three children over the years: “My eldest daughter, Dheyanka, is a brand manager. My son Yuvaan is a second-year dental student and my baby Nashka is in grade eight,” she says proudly of her family raised with Koobeshen, her better half of 25 years.

Being involved in entertainment, holding a full-time job as a teacher and raising a family is no easy feat.

Kumseela said she finds theatre irresistible: “Theatre is like a magic pill for children. It opens their minds to endless possibilities and makes the unimaginable possible. From our experience at Dingalings we can say the same is true about adult comedy. It is what keeps them coming back for more. People love to leave behind all their stresses and have a time-out in a world where everything is funny.”

As a women in a challenging industry, Kumseela shared some thoughts on the gender factor in the industry: “Getting onto a professional stage is difficult, but being a woman makes it 20 times worse.

“Audiences are not so accepting of comediennes. Society expects you to fit into the Julia Roberts or Aishwarya Rai Bachchan mould and when you are not physically what audiences expect, you just have to persist to prove you mettle.

“I think if you stick around long enough they yearn to look beyond your size 36 and growing body and start to see the star trying to emerge from inside… all the fronts and guards you have to put up to make it. Theatre is not easy. In fact, it’s the easiest industry to rob you of every cent and ounce of confidence you have. Learn from people who have been involved in the industry for a long time. Their input is invaluable. They make theatre seem seamless and effortless and natural, but that’s part of the genius,” she said.

Having just completed runs of What Women Want at Black Rock Casino and Golden Horse Casino last week, Kumseela said Dingalings are already working on a jam-packed programme of theatre to “fuel audiences to cope with one more year of stress and strife in sunny South Africa”.

Keep an eye on the press for details.

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