After a nearly eight-month forced hiatus, Gold Reef City’s acclaimed Lyric Theatre will this weekend once again welcome audiences back to their premises.
While the Covid-19 lockdown will mean that they can only accommodate up to 50% of their usual capacity, they are kicking off proceedings with a beloved local tale, Rhythms – The Gumboots Show.
It tells the story of South African miners, who in 1871 came up with their own language using their gumboots.
This historical narrative features authentic traditional South African dancing and singing which relies heavily on the unusual use of gumboots.
The production is also backed up by the rhythms of guitars, piano, percussion, marimba and drums in English, Zulu and Xhosa songs.
Gold Reef City marketing manager Feron Somiah told The Saturday Star this week that the entire process of putting the show together as well as the manner in which the audience can enjoy the production has been drastically altered to align with coronavirus regulations.
Despite this, they believe that this is the perfect tale to re announce themselves to the performance scene and that the production will provide some much needed entertainment and comfort during these unprecedented times.
“From the queries that we have been receiving, the public has been missing live shows and we are confident that this amazing show will be well received,” Somiah said.
Meanwhile, the show’s director Philippe Barreau added that while they were largely unable to work for months on end during the highest levels of the country’s nationwide shutdown earlier this year, they actually started putting it all together about 15 months ago.
“We started by doing auditions in August 2019 and we had more than 300 dancers and singers audition.
“Eventually we cast only nine dancers and six musicians and it took us an entire year to create the show which involved storyboards, music, set design, costumes, choreography, lighting and sound design.”
Rehearsals for the eagerly awaited show then began in February this year, but the arrival of the novel coronavirus stopped proceedings in its tracks as the cast were only allowed to return for rehearsals last month.
The deadly disease has also halted their international ambitions as the Rhythms – The Gumboots Show cast was meant to perform in Paris France next month but it had to be called off indefinitely as cases continue to rise steeply in the European city and neighbouring regions.
“It wasn’t easy for us but we have to get through this terrible situation together,” Barreau admitted.
While South African audiences will be able to watch the riveting and captivating theatre production in live action, the global health crisis will mean that they do so with their masks on, their hands cleaned and in a theatre which is only half full.
“Guests go through a scanning process where their temperature is taken when they enter the casino and there will be hand sanitiser stations around The Lyric Theatre with social distancing markers on the floor to ensure social distancing protocols are adhered to,” the director said.
Those who were part of the production have also had to abide by stringent Covid-19 regulations.
“All the cast and crew members have to wear their masks in the theatre, outside of rehearsals as well as during performances and they have to social distance throughout the entire process as much as possible.
“Their temperatures are also taken every morning by the security crew at The Lyric Theatre,” Barreau explained.
As Rhythms – The Gumboots Show debuts this weekend, the director now hopes that other local theatre productions can also kick off their own proceedings.
“We really hope that our show will be a starter for all the other productions and shows in SA. Of course, it is financially very difficult for us to perform when we are only permitted to sell tickets to fill 50% of the capacity of the theatre but we wanted to share our hope for a better world soon with the audience who have been deprived of shows for too long.”
Rhythms – The Gumboot Show will be live on stage at 2pm and 8pm on Saturday.
Tickets cost R150 per person. For more information, visit Computicket.