BWW Interview: Gideon Lombard's Journey With Award-Winning DIE REUK VAN APPELS
Since its 2017 debut at the KNKK festival, DIE REUK VAN APPELS returns to the Fugard with almost 20 awards and nominations under its belt. Hailed as a "must-see" piece of theater, leading man Gideon Lombard chats about the play's great success and his journey with this critically-acclaimed production.
BWW: Firstly, congratulations on DIE REUK VAN APPELS returning and the several awards you and the play have received. How did it feel to receive so many accolades for your solo performance?
Gideon: Thank you! Winning awards is a wonderful thing, but it also comes with the added pressure. I already put a lot of pressure on myself creatively, but awards play an interesting psychological role when it comes to doing something over a long period. I was scared I would rob myself of the joy of the performance and instead create some unattainable perfect version of the show; but I had a good, long sit down with myself and remembered that the joy of doing the work is the actual gig.
You've had an incredible journey with the play since its first inception. How has the artistic and perhaps emotional journey been for you as an actor, and were you expecting it when you first took on the play?
Gideon: At the start of the process the whole team is in involved. It was a very stimulating, challenging and collaborative process. After the play opened and gained some momentum it became more solitary and sometimes quite lonely. I am forever grateful to all the stage managers that have worked on the play, because they become your co-stars on tour. The flip-side of a solo performance over the course of two years is the wonderful opportunity to spend time with your own acting: to identify habits and to try new things within an established structure.
If you cast your mind back to when you first took on the role of Marnus, how did you feel about taking it/him on?
Gideon: A perfect mixture of excitement, curiosity and crippling nervousness.
Has your approach to the play changed at all?
Gideon: In a very private way. Initially I focused a lot on the architecture of the style and placing every point carefully for myself and the audience. As I've grown more comfortable with the structure and rhythmic nature of the play, I now try and surrender completely to the story and have it lead me. It has become a mutual discovery with the audience.
For the show to return with you in the starring role, you must want to take on the role of Marnus again. What drew you back to the play and/or the character?
Gideon: It has played steadily over the last year (since the previous season at the Fugard), so it is less of a return and more of a continuation. Having said that, the opportunity to return to the same wonderful theater almost exactly a year later is a great privilege.
Do you find starring in a one-man play intimidating or exhilarating?
Gideon: Both! It's very intimidating and, as mentioned, at times quite lonely, but it makes performance very tangible. When you have a good night, you know what worked; and vice versa, when something goes wrong, you know exactly what it was.
How do you prepare yourself to journey with Marnus over his childhood and into adulthood? Are there personal experiences you draw on?
Gideon: I think everything inevitably comes from the personal. The book is so well written in terms of capturing the mindset and age of a child that it made me remember things from my own youth that I had forgotten. In a way the process is less about creating a fiction; rather than remembering a feeling or atmosphere and viewing through a very specific lens.
One can imagine the emotional exposé in DIE REUK VAN APPELS being quite draining. How do you recharge after a performance or keep yourself separate being overwhelmed by the play's emotion?
Gideon: Exercise is a great tool before and after the show. I sometimes jog late at night to shake off whatever has lingered from the evening's performance.
I think it's safe to say apartheid is and will always be a "touchy" subject in this country. Would you therefore class DIE REUK VAN APPELS as "problematic"?
Gideon: I think it definitely has contentious and provoking material in it, but the creative team has made every effort to label the nature of what might be considered problematic or triggering in the age restriction. We therefore recognize that the material is sensitive, but I also feel that we deal with it responsibly. If you are going to make a play about a painful part of history, don't shy away from what the truth of it might be, but take responsibility for what you are depicting and how it might be received.
What makes DIE REUK VAN APPELS different from any other retelling of South Africa's history with apartheid?
Gideon: DIE REUK VAN APPELS looks at the cause and equation of how a particular generation was indoctrinated. There are many stories that look at the horrible consequences of apartheid, but this play takes a couple of steps back and shows the very personal beginning of this indoctrination, denial and damage. Part of the real tragedy is that we, as the audience, know the doomed trajectory of Marnus' life before he has lived it.
And finally, why do you think now, at the end of 2018, audiences should watch or perhaps even re-watch DIE REUK VAN APPELS?
Gideon: The play finds new relevance every time we do it. There seems to be a curiosity and urgency in breaking open our recent history, particularly around the formation of apartheid and the border war. It feels as if, slowly but surely, we are gaining some perspective and forming a vocabulary with which to talk about these difficult parts of history. Other than that, I think we have made a good play and have spent the past two years refining it. I would love for people to come see it and talk about it afterwards.
Photo credit: Daniel Rutland Manners
DIE REUK VAN APPELS will run at the Fugard Studio Theatre from 23 October to 10 November, Tuesdays to Saturdays at 8pm with a 3pm matinee performance on Saturdays. Tickets range from R130 to R165 and can be booked directly through the Fugard Theatre box office on 021 461 4554 or online at www.thefugard.com. There is an age restriction of 16 (sex, nudity, strong language, violence and prejudice).