BWW Interviews: Fourword March with Oskar Brown on ONE NIGHT ONLY
After almost two years in Europe, Oskar Brown is back in Africa with live comedy show, ONE NIGHT ONLY, for two performances in Windhoek and Cape Town respectively. The show, first performed in South Africa before Brown moved to Berlin, relates his experiences in the entertainment industry from drama school to big budget film and other less savoury exploits in a distinctive blend of comedy and storytelling.
I was able to sit down with him to chat about ONE NIGHT ONLY, about 'coming home' and about his own production company, Fourword Productions.
David Fick: How did ONE NIGHT ONLY come about?
Oskar Brown: While I was at studying at the University of Cape Town, I showed some of my writing to Sanjin Muftic, one of my tutors, and asked if we could turn it into a play. He said it reminded him of stand-up comedy. I had done some comedy and liked the genre and so I grew more and more stories to be performed. After I graduated, I went to New Zealand for a while, where I decided I was going to move to Germany, then came back to South Africa for five days in between and performed the show for one night only at the Playroom and decided to keep the concept going after that.
Someone from Namibia came to watch me in Germany and then asked for my contact details. I got an email from The National Theatre of Namibia about a week later and we've spent the last year and a half trying to find a time to come down and do the show here. When it worked out, I also approached Richard's and they liked the concept, so we set up a show there with the possibility of doing more next year. So now I'm doing two shows in my homeland and it will be interesting to see what it's like to bring the show back to a homegrown audience.
DF: The National Theatre of Namibia and Richard's are both a big jump forward from the Playroom.
OB: Yes, The National Theatre is a 500-seater! I'm looking forward to the jump.
DF: Is the show different every time you perform it?
OB: It's a little different each time. I find it funny when something new happens. The audience is only amused when I'm amused.
DF: Besides the comedy work, you've also set up your own company, Fourword Productions. Tell me about it.
OB: I set up Fourword Productions with Margaret Lipinski in 2009. It all happened around a play we made for the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown based on the German story, THE SANDMAN, by Ernst Hoffman. We applied to the Goethe Institute for funding and they said to go ahead with it. There was a band in the States, This Will Destroy You, whose music we wanted to use in the show, so we wrote to them and they said we could. We wanted to use clips in the show from an Oscar-nominated film based on the same story and got permission for that. Everyone we asked for anything said yes. Then I directed it to pieces and it didn't work. And no one came to see it. But in the process we found the philosophy for Fourword Productions, to create honest and intriguing theatrical, filmic, comedic and musical projects across the globe. The long term goal is to get South African work to be seen internationally.
DF: How did you come up with the name?
OB: The name sums up my life philosophy, which consists of four words: strength, honour, fortitude and truth. It sounds epic, like it should be plastered on a shield. Those are the things that are really important, for all people, artists and production companies.
DF: A big project for you this year has been BETWEEN, which co-starred you and Nick Campbell and which was directed by Geoffrey Hyland.
OB: Yes, I wrote it and we performed it at the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. We were nominated for two awards, the Oscar Wilde Award for Best Writing and the Micheal Mac Liammoir Award for Best Male Performance.
DF: How do you manage your dual German and South African identities?
In Germany, I try to be more German. I speak the language fluently and nobody there would realise that I'm not German. But I was born in South Africa, raised in South Africa and I will always be South African. If I look at it in terms of sport, I'm always happy to see Germany do well in football, but I don't cry if they lose. When the South Africa team plays, I really feel it when they lose.
DF: What's waiting for you when you get back to Germany?
OB: I'm going back to Berlin to perform in a play called PHOTOGRAPH 51, about Rosalind Franklin and her discovery of the DNA double-helix structure, at the English Theater Berlin. I've got a small role, a fun role. And I am waiting for a film I acted in, FROLLEIN FRAPPÉ, to be released. It's a silent film shot in 16mm and I'm very excited for that.
DF: Who has been an inspiration to you in your journey as a performer and writer?
OB: There are a couple of productions that I have found inspiring. When I was still at school, I saw a performance of HAMLET directed by Geoffrey Hyland with Nick Pauling playing Hamlet. Later, I saw Nick in AMADEUS, directed by Lara Foot, and there were moments in that production that were unforgettable. Also, THE BOY WHO FELL FROM THE ROOF. Working with Sanjin was also good. He has an incredible mind for directing when it comes to live theatre.
While I'm here, I also like to see as much as I can. I always try to go back to people I worked with to see their stuff. I saw OTHER PEOPLE'S LIVES last week and I'm going to see CHAMP next week. And I love to follow the news of South African theatre when I am overseas. There are some great blogs and websites. It's good to see a younger generation of South African theatre practitioners making their mark. There used to be so much talk, when I was at university, about how new people could never break into the "old crowd" and that's changing. Groups like The Mechanicals and the Pink Couch are really a model for what can be done and this new, young generation of actors can make sure that new companies are not closed groups.
With that passionate wish for a progressive arts environment to be perpetuated in South Africa, it was time for Oskar to get back to his busy schedule for his short visit to South Africa. With his boundless vision and his passion for theatre, film and television, he is certain to continue carving his niche in both the local and international arenas. If you would like more information on Oskar's shows and performances or on Fourward Productions, you can follow him on Twitter (@theoskarbrown) or visit his website.
ONE NIGHT ONLY will be performed as part of The National Theatre of Namibia's 2012 Comedy Festival, RAWMEDY, in Windhoek on 13 October and at Richard's Supper Stage in Cape Town on 21 October. Bookings for the Windhoek show can be made by calling (+264) 061234633, while tickets for the Cape Town show can be reserved at Computicket.
Photo credits: Niels Bouman and Clemens Hess