PICTURES: NARDUS ENGELBRECHT.
The multi-award winning production Tien Duisend Ton is coming to the Market Theatre from 19 January to 5 February. Presented by Carel Nel, the SU Woordfees and the Market Theatre, Tien Duisend Ton has been translated into Afrikaans (from Lungs by Duncan MacMillan) and directed brilliantly by Nico Scheepers. Two of South Africa’s foremost young talents, Albert Pretorius and Cintaine Schutte, star as a couple seriously considering procreation in the face of imminent extinction. DIANE DE BEER finds out more about the production:
Tien Duisend Ton is an incredibly moving, funny and fast-paced production which was first staged at the SU Woordfees pre-Covid and now returns with a season which has been impacted by the pandemic in different ways.
Initially, producer Karel Nel was looking for a one- or two-hander and spoke to impressarios Hennie van Greunen and Pedro Kruger about possible plays. Hennie told him about Lungs. “I bought it online, read it and lost my heart to the story.”
He describes it as a universal love story about having children and the things you grapple with when thinking about having children. It all happened around his wedding to actress Cintaine Schutte, which made the play even more right. He immediately bought the Afrikaans rights.
The couple approached Nico Scheepers, a dear friend of theirs, and also a good director and translator. Carel and Cintaine had done a play called Fliek with Nico as director in 2017. “It didn’t feel like work,” explains Carel, “it was just like friends coming together, having fun and creating amazing theatre.”
At the start, Tien Duisend Ton was earmarked for Carel and Cintaine to give them both work. Their proposal was accepted by the Woordfees and starter money was given. Just before the beginning of the festival, Carel got a very big international television series and he had to pull out of his own play.
“I had no choice because of financial reasons.” And the irony of pulling out of his own play wasn’t lost on him, but he thought about his best actor choice to replace him and Albert Pretorius popped into his head.
“They always say plays cast themselves and this is exactly what happened in this case, it was actually meant to happen. They are both unbelievable actors, both have won many awards, and are two of our finest actors in any language.”
It was indeed a match made in heaven! They actually went to a matric dance together in 2007, so they’ve known each other since high school, and have been very good friends since then.
They both have experience across the board being regular stage performers as well as television and film actors, Cintaine regularly features on magazine covers, and both of them are audience favourites and considered of the most exciting talents in the business.
They are two of my favourite people and I am always excited to see them in new work. They come with unexpected performances, show constant growth, which is my benchmark and all an audience can wish for – to be constantly challenged.
The target audience for this play is anyone from the age of 16. Even if you don’t have children, the issues include grappling with climate change, whether it is ethically right to bring more kids into the world, what we as human beings are doing to the earth, is it sustainable and what life would be like for future generations.
All are universal themes and a question that any age group would tackle and as Carel argues, has become even more relevant following the Covid pandemic, which we’ve just been through. “We were doing the play before Covid and in just the past three years, see how the world has changed. Tien Duisend Ton looks at human behaviour. But more than anything, it’s a love story between a man and a woman going through the trials and tribulations of life, how they cope with work, the world, having children and all things that couples have to deal with.
The play opened at the US Woordfees in 2019, was well received with sold out performances and has won numerous nominations and prizes for the cast, director and production.
They started talking to James Ngcobo, the artistic director at The Market (now at Joburg Theatres) in 2019. The Woordfees asked them back in 2020, they had plans for The Market and were on their way to KKNK when Covid hit the world and everything came to a sudden halt.
But now they’re back, theatres have opened once again and their Market run has been reignited. “A play changes as everyone grows but because we’re dealing with people with much more life experience, and a world that has been turned on its head, this is almost a new beginning for Tien Duisend Ton,” says Carel.
It’s a thrill for everyone involved to work at the iconic Market Theatre, and everything has run smoothly. He is especially pleased that even with Ngcobo’s departure, the play still secured its season.
Carel who had performed at The Market can’t wait for the cast to experience the diverse audiences. “It is something to behold,” he emphasises.
or Albert Pretorius, Tien Duisend Ton is a lovely play to perform in. “It’s one of the finest texts I’ve ever worked with, so finely crafted, so exciting. You can’t relax for a moment, you’ve got to be present the whole time. The lines come quick and fast. One minute you’re laughing and the next you’re crying.”
He believes it challenges both actors and audiences in the best way. “You walk off and wonder what has just happened? It’s such a nice topic as well. I find it so full. We can have all these debates with big questions and it feels like human nature at work.
“The selfish self will always find its way into everything. we can have all the debates about pollutions and all of that, but we still buy plastic straws. The text shines a light on human nature.”
He views his character as an everyman. “What I love about him is that he doesn’t think everything through. He thinks he knows all the answers, and there are things he’s not willing to compromise on. But at the end of the day, he is so flawed and so human. We all make mistakes yet we all try to our best.
For Cintaine, the piece is close to her heart. “There’s something of everything, an unbelievable text, clever, brutally honest, and written with such strength, it challenges you as an actress to use your full toolkit.
Because of that, she is thrilled to have an actor opposite her whom she can fully trust. With Albert, a close friend, she allows herself to feel vulnerable, because she has no props, no tricks, no lighting, nowhere to hide. “It’s just you in the moment with honesty.”
But it’s also the issues and problems that are more relevant now than before. “Especially today, you’re looking at these two people who aren’t just in a relationship, but are trying to navigate their world, calm the storm so that they can get to their truths, what they really want and the way to go.
And then there’s director Nico Scheepers. They can play confidently because he has a stronmg and smart guiding hand.
“It is lovely to return to this piece which happened just before and in the early days of the pandemic, thrilled to return there, and it’s very special to do this with these special guys.”