KBT Productions Presents VASLAV, Now Through Aug 9

Godfrey Johnson in VASLAV
Godfrey Johnson in VASLAV
Photo Credit: Rob Kirsner

Hot off its premiere at the National Arts Festival, KBT Productions presents VASLAV at the Kalk Bay Theatre from 17 July to 9 August.

This exciting new cabaret celebrates the life of legendary Russian Ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, who once said, "People thought I was mad, I just thought I was fully alive." Actor, composer and cabaret artist extraordinaire, Godfrey Johnson, enchants and captivates in the title role.

Nijinsky was a visionary and daring performer who changed people's perceptions of male performers and of dance in general. For nine years, he was the most admired ballet dancer in the world. Labelled 'the God of the Dance' by adoring critics, the star of the Ballet Russe company danced for the last time aged 28, in 1919. Diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, he spent the next 30 years of his life in and out of mental institutions. Such was the impact of his short career, that his legend still captivates audiences 100 years later.

Based on Nijinsky's own diaries and the world he lived in - around the time of the First World War with its explosion of creativity, change and industrial and technological advances - VASLAV blends together an intoxicating combination of original and period music, with dance and video. Set in a mental asylum when Vaslav is an older man, his story unfolds in vivid fragments of memory and flashbacks to his past.

"This is a tragic and beautiful human story of an artist trying to find wholeness as he faces the onset of schizophrenia," says Bye. "During his time, cabaret was an emerging art form, and instead of exploring Vaslav's life through dance, we are using cabaret as our narrative. He was also a skilled pianist, who took great pleasure and escape in playing the piano. His friends and collaborators were musicians and composers - it is this talent as well as his passion for music that links him and Godfrey as artists. I am also interested in the challenge faced by a great artist where there is conflict between what the audience demands and expects of the artist, and the ordinary man behind the stage persona. Off stage, Vaslav was not a 'god of the dance,' but a shy man with a bad stutter."

"We have created a rich soundscape for Vaslav Nijinsky's world, where characters and scenes from his past connect and collide with the old man at the piano," says Johnson. "I have been influenced by the music he would have been exposed to - the beauty of Debussy, Satie and Bach, and the modernism of Stravinsky, who composed the controversial "Rites of Spring", and who informed the jazz movement, as well as a diverse range of genres that inspire my original music for the production. Every note has a purpose for his story."

"Karen Jeynes' text is inspired by Nijinsky's diaries, which he wrote over a period of only six weeks," adds Bye. "Fiona du Plooy has created a gestural language from both Vaslav Nijinsky's revolutionary, original choreographic style, and the dances of the time."

The production is a dynamic collaboration between the stellar creative team of Johnson (FIFTY SHADES OF BAMBI; THE SHADOW OF BREL; FAK SONGS AND OTHER STRUGGLE ANTHEMS); director, Lara Bye (OSKAR EN DIE PIENK TANNIE; RAINBOW SCARS; LONDON ROAD); writer, Karen Jeynes (EVERYBODY ELSE (IS FUCKING PERFECT); WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE; KISS KISS); and movement coach, Fiona du Plooy (ANGELS ON HORSEBACK; BETESDA; BABEL). Lighting is by Jon Keevy, with set and costume co-ordination by Joanna Evans. Music for VASVLAV has been composed and arranged by Johnson himself, with additional song lyrics and text by Bye and Johnson.

VASLAV will be performed at the Kalk Bay Theatre on Tuesday to Saturdays from today, 17 July until 9 August at 8pm. Tickets cost R80 downstairs, with gallery seats costing R70. To book, visit www.kalkbaytheatre.co.za. Guests can enjoy a delicious supper before the show. For information and to book a table for dinner, contact 079 361 8275. VASLAV carries and age restriction of 13 due to language and sexual references.

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