Allison Foat (PR)
The latest Covid travel reality almost stopped the much anticipated play - KROTOA EVA VAN DE KAAP - from opening at Artscape this week with two of the actors unable to fly from The Netherlands to South Africa to work on the music theatre production. In the true spirit of collaboration however, the international Partners saved the day and in discussion with the team on the ground in Cape Town, agreed that director Basil Appollis could replace actor Kees Scholten and musician/composer Jef Hofmeister with local talent. The new lead actor - Geon Nel - and musician - Riku Lätti - have had just over a week to prepare and by all accounts they are coping excellently. Lätti joins Frazer Barry as part of the onstage musical ensemble
KROTOA EVA VAN DE KAAP is a collaboration between Artscape (SA) and Het Volksoperahuis of Amsterdam. It is supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in SA, the Performing Arts Fund NL and Dutch Culture. The Krotoa Forums are supported by the University of Stellenbosch and the San and Khoi Centre at the Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town.
It has been an extremely difficult time for the Holland-based team and the two actors meant to perform in the play. “To replace Kees and Jef was not a decision we took lightly,” said Annet Huizing, Volksoperahuis Producer and Business Manager. “We are devastated and still working through the disappointment." The good news is that the Partners have decided to re-stage the production in South Africa, with the Dutch team reprising their original roles, early in 2022.
Geon Nel, who takes on the role formerly played by Kees Scholten, is perhaps best known for his starring role as Willem in the kykNET drama series Vallei van Sluiers. He has worked in the theatre space with well-known names such as Christiaan Olwagen and Nico Scheepers. Stepping into Jef's role as actor and musician is Riku Lätti, winner of numerous awards including the GMT best male vocal for the album Aan't Sterre Tel, plus his album Radio Lava was considered among the top 25 Afrikaans albums of all time by Beeld. He also co-produced the soundtracks of the TV-series' Hopeville that garnered an Emmy nomination. Geon Nel will play opposite the talented Bianca Flanders, who is no stranger to theatregoers and who is also the author of two children's books. Bianca’s first feature film, NATIVity, that she wrote and directed earlier this year aired on MNET on 4 December 2021. The film will move to SHOWMAX a bit later in the month.
Set in present day South Africa, a Dutch actor (Nel) and a South African actress (Flanders) meet on the film set of Krotoa Eva van de Kaap. He takes the role of Jan van Riebeeck, the VOC commander who established a refreshment station at the Cape in 1652. She plays Krotoa, the young Khoe girl taken into Van Riebeeck's household who went on to become a key negotiator and translator between the Dutch and the local people at a very young age. The first Khoe woman to be baptised and the first to marry a European officially, Krotoa was abused and battered by the clash of cultures. As they act out the story, the two actors are not unscathed, entering a whirlwind of confrontations. During their creative process and even in their own worlds, Krotoa's story shakes them up. An inevitable dramatic conclusion is set in motion.
KROTOA EVA VAN DE KAAP was first performed in The Netherlands in October 2018 and enjoyed subsequent runs in Cape Town in 2019 followed by performances at the Free State Arts Festival. In this production Sylvia Vollenhoven picks up on the story that started three and a half centuries ago. Discussing the play, she says, "There are stories that seek to be transformed for the benefit of all. Krotoa's story is one of those.” It is a perspective-changing, intercultural tribute to a shared history.
The story of Krotoa is very relevant in contemporary South Africa. It brings to the stage a neglected and contested aspect of shared history in a way that is innovative. The work sheds new light on an ancient story. Not so long ago few people knew who Krotoa was. The play contends that there has since been an awakening because the story has not ended. The play connects the dots between what happened at a 17th Century Fort and what is still happening in the modern world. It is a compelling and engaging story that will help the audience understand their past, make sense of the present and be better prepared for the future. The story unfolds onstage in four languages: English, Afrikaans, Dutch and Khoekhoe. The surtitles are in English. Lighting design is by Fahiem Bardien.
Interestingly, there is an exhibition currently on at the Rijksmusem in Amsterdam until May 2022 that centres on slavery in the Dutch colonial period spanning from the 17th to the 19th century. It also sheds light on the countries and regions such as South Africa where the Netherlands was actively involved in slavery and the slave trade. The stories of enslaved people are too often neglected in our history books, their voices need amplification. Both the exhibition in the Rijksmueum and the play KROTOA EVA VAN DE KAAP seek to give voice to some of those people, not from the VOC perspective, but from their own. Krotoa is one of many projects the Netherlands Missions in South Africa is supporting that address this part of our history in South Africa. Through our theme of Transformation and Identity, that promotes dialogue on historical and current transformation and identity challenges, we want to engage in the difficult conversations about our histories and be willing to sit with the uncomfortable in order to better understand.
The opening night performance on Thursday 9 December will be preceded by a forum and reception, with a keynote address by Dr. Willa Boezak. There will also be a short performance by Jolyn Phillips. During the run, Basil Appollis will host an audience Q&A after the matinée performance on 11 and 18 December, a discussion that will explore the complex issues raised by the work.
Performances are at the Artscape Arena Theatre from 9 to 18 December 2021, on Wednesdays to Fridays at 6pm and on Saturdays at 1pm and 6pm. Tickets cost R80 to R100 per person, available through Computicket, 08619158000 and 0214217695. Age restriction: No under 10's.