BWW Interviews: "BETWEEN Boy" Oskar Brown is Back in Town!
It's been about almost two years since we last caught up with Oskar Brown to chat about his then upcoming ONE NIGHT ONLY shows in South Africa and Namibia and his play BETWEEN, in which he performed opposite Nicholas Campbell, with director Geoffrey Hyland at the helm. With his new one-man show gaining steam and BETWEEN travelling around the world, we thought it might be time to find our more about what Oskar has been up to!
DF: So you are coming back to Cape Town with BETWEEN next month - almost exactly a year since you had your last run at the Alexander Bar. How have the past 12 months been?
OB: 2013 was awesome. We started with a tiny little run in Cape Town at the Alexander Bar and we were just embraced with such warmth and enthusiasm by everyone who came to see it. Then we travelled to Brighton and Edinburgh and the same thing happened. The play was just a huge success and has opened up so many more opportunities for us.
DF: And now, you're bringing the show back home again.
OB: Naturally Cape Town was the best experience and that is why we are coming back to our theatrical home: Alexander Bar. It's a special extended run, so everyone who has not seen it can come and those who have seen it can come again. I think it is the type of play one can watch multiple times anyway, but we have continued to refine and tinker with the play, taking into account all the feedback we have received. Specifically the motivations of the characters that I play have been fleshed out a little.
DF: Any plans for the show post-Cape Town?
OB: It will probably be the last time the play will be in South Africa, because the really exciting news is that we will be performing in London! The Kings Head Theatre, which is probably the pub theatre in London has invited us to perform there for the entire month of August. We will be working with a creative team that includes some of the UK's hottest young set and sound designers. At the same time, BETWEEN will be published and suddenly Messrs Hyland, Campbell and Brown will be printed on a teeny tiny little book.
DF: So it was a good year for the "Between Boys". What about all of your other endeavours?
OB: All of the 'boys' are doing well. Geoffrey Hyland took over as Head of Drama Department at UCT, which means we never see or hear from him while he shapes young students into the Nicholas Campbells of tomorrow. Nicholas moved to New York and is coming to terms with having one foot in each continent. I have been back in Berlin and working on various film projects. Currently I am playing "Isaac Newton" in Lucas Hnath's "Isaac's Eye" at the English Theatre Berlin.
DF: You were very vocal about your positive experiences at the Edinburgh Festival last year, particularly about the prominent South African presence there.
OB: Having so much South African theatre in Edinburgh meant that I met more South Africans than Scotsman. I would really like to see more SA shows head over and perform at proper theatres. Attending the festivals is a fun and rewarding experience but getting into the theatres in the big cities would be a really good thing too.
DF: I've also seen posts on Facebook and Twitter about your own, new one-man show.
OB: Yes. I sat down and thought about what I wanted to do with my one-man show: something new, something exciting both for the audience and for me, not stand-up, not only for laughs, lots of improv, lots of things, stories and just madness. The result is the ever growing, always changing and entirely unpredictable: BRING-A-THING.
DF: How does it work?
OB: The audience brings a 'thing' to the show, puts it in a box on the stage and then I open the box and madness ensues. Anything can happen. It stimulates an aspect of 'me' that it is not creatively fulfilled by acting or writing. It's the unpredictable, the Lego playing 8 year-old, the Jim Carrey meets Monty Python meets this guy I met on a small island off the coast of New Zealand, and the 'I wonder why there is a solitary shoe on the side of the road' aspect of myself. I welcome the audience to step into that world and see what happens.
DF: Your one-man shows seem to have this quality of dealing with the unexpected, in the way that they tend to be a little different every time because there is some element of playing with the audience. Ever had a moment where you've really had to work to move the show along?
OB: Touching wood like mad over here. I live in fear that one day, nobody will bring a thing. That would be a very short show. We had a few touch and go performances of BETWEEN in Edinburgh though. The way our venue was set-up, allowed us a get in time of 5 minutes. So Nicholas and I would be standing outside of the venue, along with everyone who had come to see the show and then as soon as we had the all clear we would run in, throw blue paper everywhere, strip down to our 'costumes' and pray that we got it all right.
DF: Any new plays in the pipeline?
OB: I have a long term goal to write another play. BETWEEN was so many years in the making and it is still evolving. I know what I want to write about and hope that I can start putting more concrete ideas together soon. Themes of sexuality and love will always be involved I guess.
DF: You also mentioned your work in films.
OB: My film work has opened up some exciting opportunities to write for screen, which I am focusing on in the moment. I don't want to jinx any of that news just yet, but I do know that in September a little satirical comedy I wrote is being filmed in Berlin.
DF: What theatre have you found inspiring over the past two years? I know you make a big effort to catch productions whenever you're in the country.
OB: Keep an eye on whatever Jemma Kahn is up to. I don't want to seem like I am only promoting the EPICENE BUTCHER crew, but if you are film inclined, then support John Trengove. There are quite a few people I want to see do hypothetical productions in the future. When is Themba Mchunu coming back to Cape Town? When is Jon Keevy writing another play? Who will fix Maynardville? So many questions and so few answers.
With those questions, it was time for Oskar to get back to his busy schedule. With a couple of plays opening in Berlin at the moment, things are busier than ever for this dynamic young South African theatre-maker.
Catch BETWEEN at the Alexander Bar's "Upstairs" theatre from 19-31 May 2013. Tickets cost R90-R110 and can be booked on the Alexander Bar's website. You can follow Oskar Brown and "the between boys" on Twitter and keep track of BETWEEN on Facebook or on the Fourword Productions website.
Photo credit: Niels Bouman