Taking theatre to the next level

Adriaan van As chats to us about his upcoming production at Innibos.

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Born and bred in Mbombela, but relocating to Johannesburg to pursue his dream of becoming an actor, Adriaan has come full circle. Today he not only acts, but has a successful production company that has brought quality productions to the stages of the annual Innibos National Arts Festival in Mbombela for the past seven years.

This year, the actor, producer and director has broken the mould of traditional theatre to bring Lowvelders a truly adventurous production that will have audiences spoilt for choice – in more ways than one.

Making its debut at Innibos, Be(t)roudag offers a glimpse into a Lowveld wedding, with all the intrigue and drama that the friends, family, wedding planner and betrothed couple themselves bring to the party. But, this is not a run-of-the-mill wedding where the guests simply watch the vows being exchanged.

Adriaan explains that Be(t)roudag is what is known as a site-specific theatre piece where the audience moves from one stage scene to another. “We decided to push the boundaries of traditional theatre by adding a ‘choose your own adventure’ element. So the audience watches a part of the show and then decides which storyline they want to follow, then moves to the next stage scene accordingly.

”The whole story eventually comes together, but each person takes a different path to get there. So one can actually see the play a few times and each time experience a different storyline.”

He adds that this is the first time such a production is done in South Africa and the organised chaos in which it takes place, was at times challenging.

“The audience is very close to the story and there are many elements to the production – in some scenes, the audience is like a fly on the wall and other times they are addressed directly. So it requires quite a lot of improvisation from the actors, which is why we had to make sure we had the right team on board.”

Adriaan and business partner Francois Jacobs developed the concept for the production with writers Retief Scholtz and Etienne Fourie. The cast includes household names like Nicola Hanekom, Chris van Niekerk, Pulane Sekepe, Wilhelm van der Walt, Amalia Uys and Adriaan himself.


Pulane Sekepe

He notes that the first step is always getting a good director, and one with as much experience as André Odendaal has made the process easier.

Another challenge the team has been faced with is getting their timing spot on. “With each scene change, the cast and audience need to move from one stage to the next, so it needs to be well-coordinated and the transitions kept lively to hold the audience’s attention.”


Nicola Hanekom

Adriaan says the right venue was also key in making the production work, and they found the perfect platform in the newly opened Christie’s at 32 on Russell, since it is a guest house and a wedding venue.

While he has been involved at Innibos with numerous successful productions over the past seven years, it took hard work and determination to get his career to where it is today.


Wilhelm van der Walt

With the initial dream to become an actor, Adriaan took up drama classes at the age of 13 and then went on to study drama after school. “But once I entered the working world I found it frustrating having to continuously stand in a queue for a part in a production. So together with Francois, we decided to take the plunge and start our own production company.

“When our first concept was accepted for production we didn’t even have a script. At first I panicked, and then out of desperation I just started writing. Fortunately, it turned out to be a great success and I thought to myself, ‘Wow, we can do this; I guess we should continue’. That was three years ago and I’ve never looked back,” Adriaan smiles.


Amalia Uys

He relates that their first movie holds a special place in his heart. “The movie, Damduikers, was a short film for the Silverskerm film festival that we shot at Vygeboom Dam just outside Barberton. We had so much fun because we had very little to work with – I had to produce, act and direct!”

He notes that while the theatre industry is challenging and budget cuts are a reality, theatre will never die out. “People will always have that craving to see real people on stage. The challenge is to innovate and keep audiences enthralled.

“Whenever I write a script I always ensure there are multiple layers of humour and storylines so that there is something for everyone – I think that is important if you want to hold the audience’s attention. Be(t)roudag offers something completely novel and it’s the kind of entertainment that is worth making an effort to get to the theatre.”

Be(t)roudag is showing at Innibos from June 25 to 29.

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