PICTURES: Brett Rubin
Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love with Janice Honeyman as director and a cast including Kate Liquorish, Langley Kirkwood, Zane Meas and Paka Zedwala opens this weekend at the Market’s Mannie Manim Theatre for a short run until September 9. DIANE DE BEER spoke to the director and some of the cast about this explosive play by a playwright not featured much locally yet has so much to say about the lives we all struggle to lead:
For Janice Honeyman, it’s all about the text, the Sam Shepard words and the meaning in every little detail.
Sitting through an early rehearsal, it’s clear that this is where the focus lies as the actors slip into this world hardly noticing when someone enters the room or the passing parade at the large windows of the rehearsal room.
While juggling at that time, the second season of The Color Purple which has opened in the meantime, and these rehearsals for a new play, Honeyman, the seasoned director she is, takes things in her stride. But she’s also working with a seasoned cast and one that has taken this grueling play by the scruff of the neck.
Described in the publicity notes as a “relentless emotional conflict”, this is tough yet exhilarating work – both from a performance and viewing point of view. But it has huge rewards – for all involved.
Liquorish in the role of May opposite Kirkwood’s Eddie, is pleased that they at least knew one another. “It makes it easier to get to feel comfortable from the start with this intimate performance,” she says. And Kirkwood is thrilled to be back on the Market stage for the first time in 20 years. He moved to Cape Town a few years back where in recent years he has spent most of his time performing in film, for obvious monetary reasons. But this is one he relishes.
It’s about exploring Shepard’s masculinised landscape while dealing with a clash of male and female qualities in a play of heightened realism yet with a dash of theatricality as the father figure steps in and out of the story, says the director. And with her own brand of storytelling, she’s not only in love with the Shepard words but also with this mix of reality and fantasy inherent in this play. “It’s about making sense of the play and then turning it on its head,” she says.
For her it is all about detail, the rawness, the visceral quality of the work and the layering which is already visible especially with the two main protagonists, this early in rehearsals. “The stage is really where we all want to be,” says Kirkwood as he talks about the gift they have been handed by being invited to participate in this particular production.
It’s easy to see why. It is a play that asks much from its cast but with the mastery of the Shepard language and what he plays with, there’s so much to work with. This is storytelling that dives right into the eye of the storm and demands that you deal with everything it throws at you. “Even though I haven’t been on stage for a while, I felt physically fit but perhaps the emotional side was something tougher,” explains Kirkwood.
With Shepard, that’s a huge ask. “It’s real and it’s raw,” agrees Liquorish who has just spent an hour rolling on the floor and tackling her lover in a way we don’t see too often on stage. This is about digging deep as you scratch around family lies and secrets which impact not only on the people directly involved, but also those who move around on the border of these lives. It is about how we affect others with what is happening in our lives and how we navigate our childhood into adulthood and the often-devastating impact.
Shepard wrote much about family life, especially the way the men obliterated anyone who dared enter their space, and in the process themselves, as Sylvaine Strike so masterfully illustrated in her Woordfees production of Shepard’s Curse of the Starving Class earlier this year which will hopefully still be performed in Gauteng. And again, it is this never-ending cycle of abuse that clutches with maniacal strength that is again observed here with such power and insight.
“It’s one of those where we have to let it all hang out,” says Liquorish but one suspects, it is the harshness of the emotions that allows the actors to lose themselves in this hellish world they have entered for just a moment in time.
And yet, even if this sounds relentless, it is the Shepard script which is often as funny as it is harsh, and the performance by the actors at the centre of the action as well as the two, Shepard’s obligatory and iconic father (Meas) and a prospective yet unsuspecting lover (Zedwala), on the sidelines, that makes this such compelling viewing. There’s no pussyfooting around. Everyone jumps in and tears this story to shreds. “It’s obviously not for chilkdren,” says Liquorish and Kirkwood is delighted that his two children are old enough to see this one now – and their first experience of him on stage.
And it’s a play where audience can jump right in emotionally and get their hands dirty.
It might seem extreme but as families go, it will also be familiar. “It’s about confronting issues,” says Liquorish who has lost her heart to Shepard’s haunting words. For Kirkwood raised by a single mother and more recently divorced from his wife, this family and their lives also resonates deeply – and it shows.
For those of us watching, it will be a coming together of all of the above – the performances and the production – all aimed at telling this Shepard story in a way that will resonate with as much force and as strongly, as it did when it was first written and performed more than three decades ago. It is a universal story though and there’s no chance of it ever losing its potency – now or in the future. That’s what Shepard is all about.
*Fool for Love opens this weekend (August 18) with a few preview performances, the official opening on August 22 until September 2 at the Mannie Manim Theatre at the Market in Newtown.