• Lance-Selae August

Renaissance - A work of art!

Wessel Pretorius presents Renaissance, a production with a classic twist, now shows at the Alexander Bar, Theatre and Cafe'. Renaissance was written and directed by Wessel Pretorius. Pretorius has made his mark in the South African theatre circuit by performing in theatre pieces as Die Monster in die Gang, Balbesit, Ont-, and Die Ontelbare 48. The latter received a kykNET Fiesta nomination as well as a Fleur du Cap nomination for I Love You Sally Field.

The production features the talents of Len-Barry Simons (seen in various works of Afrikaans theatre such as Die Kleine Meermin, Swyg and Aantrekkingskrag), Jazzara Jaslyn (known for her roles in Tweespalt, A Cinderella Story, The White Whore and the Bit Player) and David Viviers (who has played in Klara Maas se Hart is Gebreek, The Finkelsteins are coming to Dinner and Salt).

The story follows Leon, a night watchmen at the National Gallery in London. He is a tired, broke, queer and single South African, who struggles to build a career as an actor. It is unique, and tells the stories of some of the artworks produced during the Renaissance art period. As we follow Leon’s night patrol, the artworks displayed on the gallery’s walls come to life and start speaking of their stories. Later, audiences will come to find that these scenarios are all pigments of Leon’s imagination.

Renaissance explores themes such as broken dreams and picking up the pieces as a result of this, as well as love within the LGBTQI community and how Leon has come to re-evaluate art as he is forced to spend long hours watching and protecting artworks. With the period of Renaissance art characterising the rebirth of art, the production incorporates the power and purpose of art, as well as how art influences the modern world and spiritual thinking. Renaissance is also to a great extent satirical. A minimalistic and elegent set design, romantic sound design, and luminous lighting design set the tone for what was to be a breathtaking performance.

Upon attending their final dress rehearsal, I was lucky to have a brief discussion with Pretorius about his artistic process.

What is your vision for this Renaissance, and what do you hope audiences will take away from this production?

When I look at art, I feel certain vibrations. I may not know much about art, but through looking at artworks, I form my own subjective opinions. Any piece of art is what you make of it. You bring 50% of your personality to it, and the artist brings the other 50% of what they intended it to be.

What is your directorial process like, and how do you work with the artists?

I love working with the actors, and thereafter, I start with the interpretation of the dialogues, or monologues. From there I start formulating the visual things. I like working with very little on stage. It’s good to use the bare minimum on stage, and to let the actors have a good time and get to show the best of their abilities.

Your work has time and again been described as ‘avant garde’. Would you like to explain this?

I always think I end up making something commercial, and then people end up telling me that it was quite strange. I like things that are off-centre. I like things that surprise you, or didn’t expect. I like works that blend genres. I have a very eclectic taste when it comes to theatre. When I make theatre, all of these things come to the fore.

Renaissance runs at the Alexander Upstairs until 4 November at 9pm nightly. Tickets can be booked through the Alexander Bar website, at R90 or R100 at the door.

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