• Lance-Selae August

#Woordfees2018: The intersection of “Lyf, Lief, Lus and Leef” in Aktueel

For a moment, I was worried about how I would write this piece, as I was in stitches for the majority of the performance. If one word could write this blog, it would consist of “funny, funny, funny, funny, funny”. Olie en Vuur Produksies presents a developmental production at US Woordfees 2018 called Aktueel.

The concept for Aktueel is the brainchild of Lara Hattingh, and the idea was born on a paper tablecloth at a pizzeria. The production has been in ongoing development since 2014, and was originally conceptualized for the Inter-residence drama competition, an annual Stellenbosch event. It was fleshed out to be a full length stage play in lieu of Woordfees with the help of Izak Berg. The performers: Hattingh, alongside Berg and Anja Rademan.

Aktueel is presented as a lifestyle television programme, seemingly filmed live in front of a studio audience. The production in essence is made up of a collection of skits using two performers. Through humour and, the production loosely questions: How far will humans go to conform to or maintain an absurd social media society? How satisfied are humans with their conformity or non-conformity to the aforementioned? Do we realize that once we are alone, we are still with our own thoughts, and despite the facade we put up, reality still catches up with us?

The production breaks theatre conventions by having the performers prepare for their performance as the audience are taking their seats. The performers wear funky, and sometimes vaudeville costumes in an abundance of purple and yellow. The costume designer was Rouvé Hattingh. The set is symmetrical, incorporating loads of shapes, alongside everything else that you would find on the set of a talk show. The lighting stages are mostly general, but extremely effective in creating a mood equal to the start and end of a talk show. Credit to Divan Putter and Jako Beyleveld for all things technical.

I was fortunate enough to have brief chats with Hattingh and Berg respectively:

To LH: What was it like preparing for Aktueel, and where did the content stem from?

The content was created for one of my writing class projects, and after varsity, we continuously wrote new sketches, with the help of cocktails. It is a first for us, and it’s always difficult to apply theory within a real-life context. The process of preparing for Woordfees was very informative and educational. In terms of content, the TV show in the play takes the structure of a women’s magazine, and we used themes that are relatable to the everyday individual, specifically Afrikaans-speaking people and theatregoers. We use absurdities to show people how silly we are for trying to uphold these facades.

To IB: What were you hoping audiences would take away from the production, and what was the directorial process like?

The journey both creatively and directorially was extremely collaborative. We relied greatly on each other. All of us decided when, where and how things would be done. I want audiences to be entertained, I want them to laugh at the content, but also to realize that they are laughing at themselves because of this mirror that the content faces audiences with. Aktueel has a very deep meaning, and we want audiences to realize how society forces us to try and be things that we are not.

Aktueel has since completed their US Woordfees season, but the production has a future in store consisting of possible performances at other festivals, and through turning the sketches into a show which will be presented through YouTube.

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