The Market is celebrating its 45th year. This isn’t a time for the usual festivities associated with these kind of landmarks, but artistic director James Ngcobo has decided to be smart about his choices in honouring the iconic theatre in a way that pays tribute to both the people and the place. With that in mind, previous artistic director Malcolm Purkey and an actor who had close links with The Market in the past, Camilla Waldman, are presenting playwright Martin Sherman’s one-woman tour-de-force Rose (he is perhaps best remembered for Bent) until May 16. DIANE DE BEER spoke to the two artists:
PICTURES: Suzy Bernstein
While both director Malcolm Purkey and actor Camilla Waldman had worked on solo productions many, many moons ago, they are thrilled to be engaging with a work so exciting, in a time when everyone is itching to get out there. For these two passionate storytellers, it’s what they love doing best.
Handed the play and the actor, Purkey is especially thrilled that both of these have come together in such an extraordinary fashion. “I have discovered that to work solo, you need an extremely strong script,” says Waldman and that’s exactly what she has been given with the extraordinary woman she is in the process of portraying and getting to know inside out.
These two artists have never worked together on stage even though they have worked together, with Purkey an external examiner when she was still studying and then the Dean of Afda, when she was appointed lecturer.
Purkey describes Rose as a Jewish production, yet the woman of the title is anything but traditional. “She’s 86 years old, had three husbands and is involved with a much younger hippie lover. She explores black magic and tests Oriental religions amongst others by visiting a Buddhist retreat!”
But where he really lost his heart was in the script. “It’s excellent writing and we had a great time exploring Rose’s interior life,” he says.
The other thing that pleased him was the streak of Jewish comedy that runs through the piece. Rose didn’t have an easy life but she is forever playing with wit. “Both Camilla and I knew we could work with that.” And in these often troubling times, even when we work with issues, it would be good to laugh along the way.
Rose lived a full if sometimes exhausting life and the story told here is described as both tragic and brilliant. And because of her 86 years, most of what she experienced covers pretty much the highlights of the past century.
That was also one of the reasons they decided not to cut the text but rather present it with an interval. “It’s a very delicate text,” says Purkey. It was difficult to select any cuts which is an indication of the writing. “We decided to keep it largely intact,” says Waldman who realises this will be quite a marathon session for performer and audience.
But can anyone who loves theatre think of anything more exciting than experiencing live theatre again? Every once in a while something pops out but we’re nowhere back to where we were early in 2020, when the pandemic was just beginning to emerge and we didn’t yet have any clue of the extent of what we were about to experience.
If the play has a familiar ring to it, Annabel Linder performed in the acclaimed play almost 20 years ago and Waldman, who is a huge fan of Linder and has worked with her a few times in the past, was hoping to have a conversation with her. “But time pressure didn’t allow for any of that,” she wails – and that’s usually what happens in these cramped rehearsal times where actors and their directors simply have to press on at breakneck speed. And probably now even more than before.
Both of them are old hands at this game and know how to work at achieving the magic. That’s what makes this such an exciting venture. In the past, Waldman was one of those actors who could slip into different roles with consummate ease. And in the pictures of Rose (being so much older) she is hardly recognisable. Purkey is back in his old playground and happy to be there, even allowing for all the restraints and deadlines.
With this rich and evocative script, and their double dose of experience, Purkey and Waldman make a formidable team. Waldman also knows that this is a character that will keep growing. “It’s a wonderful chance to honour the beautiful writing,” she elaborates. She knows she has still has a lot of work to do and accepts that she will birth it during the run and just keep growing. It’s that kind of text.
Being who she is, she will give it every fibre of her being to get it right! If you’re more familiar with her work on television, do yourself a favour and witness this remarkable actress on stage. We haven’t seen enough of her in recent years while the younger generation have benefitted from her teaching and coaching.
But personally I believe on stage is where the sparks fly – for both actor and director.
Season: Friday 23 April – 16 May 2021
Venue: Barney Simon Theatre
Performance times: Tuesday – Saturday @19h00 and Sunday @15h15
Ticket prices: Tuesday – Thursday R90.00 Friday – Saturday R150.00 and Sunday R130.00