BWW Interviews: Chilling on The Pink Couch with MAFEKING ROAD's Andrew Laubscher and Mathew Lewis
MAFEKING ROAD, the Pink Couch's widely acclaimed adaptation of the short stories of Herman Charles Bosman, opened at the Kalk Bay Theatre in Cape Town last week. The show, performed by Andrew Laubscher and Mathew Lewis and directed by Tara Notcutt, is a much more physical look at the works of Bosman, whose work has hitherto been represented in performance through the medium of storytelling and this new take on some of South Africa’s most prized home-grown literature earned the trio a Standard Bank Silver Ovation Award for Physical Theatre at the National Arts Festival in 2011 .
I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Laubscher and Lewis to chat about the show, The Pink Couch and their respective careers in the theatre.
David Fick: How did you get started in theatre?
Mathew Lewis: I studied at the University of Cape Town. When I graduated, we founded The Pink Couch and since then have worked as a stage manager, lighting designer and actor in theatre.
Andrew Laubscher: After school, I wasn’t doing very much – messing around in Stellenbosch and getting fired from waitering jobs – and my dad said I should go study drama at UCT. I went and auditioned and got in. Since I graduated, I've mainly been working in different kinds of theatre – children's theatre, Shakespeare at Maynardville and productions for The Pink Couch and The Mechanicals.
DF: Tell me about The Pink Couch.
ML: The Pink Couch was founded in 2005 by Tara Notcutt, Albert Pretorius, Gideon Lombard and me. Our debut production was …MISKIEN. We founded The Pink Couch with the view to make theatre accessible to the younger generation, who would normally go and watch the latest movie, and make stories that they would find enjoyable. We’ve grown to include Andrew, James MacGregor and Cintaine Schutte and gone from strength to strength. We’ve toured to Perth and Amsterdam and we hope to continue doing fun and exciting things.
AL: Where did the name come from?
ML: Tara was driving around Woodstock one day and saw a pink couch on the side of the road.
DF: How did this project come about?
AL: It was in 2010 and Tara wanted to take something to the Voorkamerfest in Darling and came up with the idea of doing the Herman Charles Bosman stories in a comic book style. Tara phoned us up and we had 2 weeks to do 2 stories, "In the Withaak's Shade" and "Willem Prinsloo's Peach Brandy". We read the stories and started to do our own thing with them. Tara knew what she wanted in terms of style and shaped it.
DF: In the current show, MAFEKING ROAD uses 4 stories and has a meta-theatrical framework that plays into the idea that you’re just actors in the space, using your whole bodies as well as your voices to tell the tales. The show is so much fun and you play anything and everything: Oom Schalk Lourens and other folk in the Groot Marico, a horse named Bertie, a leopard with many spots, even a pretty young girl fresh from finishing school. What are your favourite parts of the show to perform?
ML: Probably "A Bekkersdal Marathon", especially the last part. It's quite a fun one and because it's the newest, it feels fresher.
AL: The story I like most is "Willem Prinsloo's Peach Brandy", but I also like the moments when we break away from the stories. It's a fun show to perform and there's no moment you dread doing night after night like you get in some plays.
ML: Yes, it’s all quite enjoyable.
DF: You've racked up quite a number of performances of the show.
ML: With the opening of this run, we've done 50 performances of the show.
AL: That's without the Voorkamerfees performances and school performances. With those, it's probably close to 70.
DF: So by now you must have had some great "show must go on performances".
ML: There was one performance in Grahamstown where I woke up feeling really sick. To get through the show I bought some kind of effervescent energy tablet and drank it with a bunch of energy drinks before the show. I felt like I was mildly hallucinating.
AL: And I was like, "What is wrong with Mat? He's on a different planet!" There's this one bit of the show, where we draw a box for the title of one of the stories, and we draw the box and then… nothing happens. Later he told me he was looking at this thing in the audience.
ML: It was a rope that was waving around like a snake. And suddenly, when there was this long pause, I thought, "Why isn’t Andrew doing anything?"
DF: What's next for the Pink Couch?
ML: I don't know if it’s really about specific goals. We want to make quality, cool theatre that is innovative and catches the imagination of our audiences. And we'd like to carry on doing things that tour internationally. …MISKIEN is off to New York this time next year and we're hoping to get MAFEKING ROAD to Amsterdam.
AL: And after this, we also go to Durban, the Aardklop Nasionale Kunstefees in Potchefstroom, the Clarens Centenary Celebration and return to the Herman Charles Bosman Literary Festival in Groot Marico with MAFEKING ROAD.
DF: Who inspires you in the South African theatre scene?
AL: Before I started working with The Mechanicals, I was really inspired by the people in the company, by how brave they are in terms of what they want to do and how they do it. By Tara and the Pink Couch. And when I was at UCT, Jeremy Crutchley was a big inspiration. I went to watch him on BETRAYAL at the Baxter and I was blown away. Also, the older generation of theatremakers who are still doing it!
ML: Particularly while I was at varsity, FTH:K. And then people that I've worked with, like Gaëtan Schmid and Susan Danford. They're talented, hard-working performers, and nice people, professionals who display a good work ethic. And lecturers from university, like Mark Fleishman and Yvonne Banning, who was a huge inspiration to me.
AL: Me too.
ML: And Liz Mills and Geoff Hyland. Back in the days when I was young and impressionable.
DF: Where can we see what you're up to online?
AL: I don’t have Twitter, but I want to at some point.
ML: I love how you said that like it was a big dream of yours.
And with some hearty laughter, my time with Laubscher and Lewis came to a close. It was an hour well spent: with their passion for making theatre and their irreverent and offbeat sense of humour, Laubscher and Lewis are as charming in real life as they are engaging on stage.
MAFEKING ROAD will be performed Wednesday to Saturdays at the Kalk Bay Theatre until 8 September. Doors open at 6.30pm and seating is unreserved. Dinner is served from 7pm when guests can enjoy a delicious two or three course meal created by Kalk Bay Theatre’s talented chef Hannah McMahon, with dessert and coffee after the show.
There is ticket special of R75 (or R225 with a 2-course meal and R275 with a 3-course meal) on 22 and 23 August. Tickets only for all other shows cost R95 (or R245 with two-course meal and R295 with three-course meal). For all bookings and further information visit The Kalk Bay Theatre website.
Photo Credit: The Pink Couch