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SPOTLIGHT: A behind the Orpheus-scenes chat with Dean Balie & Gideon Lombard

Barbara Loots


I had the great pleasure of sitting down to have a theatre chat with two of the talents on stage in Orpheus in Africa, the new David Kramer musical showing at The Fugard Theatre until 9 January 2016.

Dean Balie and Gideon Lombard, a Matie and a Ikey respectively, tried very hard to convince me that they actually don’t get along at all. Even though they are great actors on stage, they are terrible liars in person. These two, as well as the rest of the cast who casually popped in, definitely get along fabulously. That already bodes well for a fun theatre night out. Great cast energy is key for a talented group to gel well on stage. That these two have loads of energy, is unquestionable.

Their backgrounds are both theatrical, but also very different. Dean is a musical theatre man and you will definitely remember him as the Young Kat in Kat and the King. Gideon, new to the musical scene, is more a director at heart but has embraced dramatic stage pieces like Miskien (with Albert Pretorius, directed by Tara Notcutt) from a performance perspective.

Considering their diverse backgrounds, the first question that popped into my head was whether there is a role or show they regard as having most defined them as performers.

Dean very honestly declared that he really can’t choose, as each role is special to him in its own way, allowing him to take something different away from each production. Gideon agreed and added that every production actually offers you the opportunity to learn more about yourself.

These two are definitely chasing growth experiences and taking the industry by storm. If you think they are on stage at Orpheus at night and then get to sleep away the next day until just before curtain call, think again!

Apart from stepping into the musical arena for the first time, Gideon is also working on the new Kyknet production Suidooster that airs 16 November 2015 at 6pm, while simultaneously working on the theatre production Soldaat showing at Artscape Theatre soon. Is that all? Not even close! He is also writing music for advertisements and even assisting with the casting of a new movie. In between all this, he declares, is a search for balance in trying to find time to actually just sit down with his guitar and play for the sake of making music as he did recently at one of Alexander Upstairs’ Playthings evenings.

Dean himself is as much a mover and a shaker in this creative industry. He is on stage every day at the Rosebank Theatre in the Rob van Vuuren / Danielle Bischoff directed and Siv Ngesi produced Florence and Watson and the Surgarbush Mouse alongside fellow Orpheus cast member Sne Dladla. With this show’s run ending on 10 October they are already looking at the possibility of another Cape Town run in December. When Dean and Sne aren’t on stage, they are also working on a two-handler that they “defsnislis” want to have staged next year. With a title like Melancholy this comedy in the making grabbed my attention. When Dean explained that it will see two very depressed convicts, Melan & Choly, get up to very funny mischief in their state of deep despair, I was sold. Can’t wait to see this one! In between all this creative work running into 2016 already, he adds, “I will also be in Margit [Meyer-Rodenbeck’s] Liewe Heksie at the Woordfees next year!”

When do these guys sleep? I honestly have no idea!

With so much energy, creative focus and a passion for theatre, there surely must be a dream role either of them would grab with both hands if offered? In agreement that they would both still want to work on a production with the visionary Marthinus Basson, they proceeded to debate the new trend of people being more interested in people. It was eventually settled that Dean would want to play Little Richie in a musical tribute and Gideon, with his fascination with “someone who is spectacularly flawed” would want to portray either Jim Morrison or Charles Bukowski. In the midst of the two of them considering the possibility of playing Hamlet (with the Gideon added proviso only if reimagined by Jaco Bouwer in a Heiner Müller Hamletmachine kind of way), Dean stopped, gave a charming smile and said “actually, the dream roles I want to play must still be written”.

That statement had the two of them in stitches, confirming that there clearly is never a dull moment when they are part of a cast. If at all possible, after talking with Dean and Gideon, I think I may just love theatre even more.

Getting back to Orpheus as their current Fugard Theatre based project, I asked them about their experience of working with theatre legend David Kramer. Without missing a beat, Dean said:

“It is always nice when a storyteller is not precious about his writings. He allows you the freedom to help create. He makes you feel comfortable as a performer.”

Gideon became a bit nostalgic as he added:

“I listened to him on cassette during trips from Namibia to Cape Town as a kid – the novelty has not warn off!”

Agreeing that David Kramer is very passionate – almost obsessive about the little things in the margins of a story other people skim over – they explained that they find his enthusiasm both scary and infectious at the same time, as he puts a lot of trust in his company.

As our chat came to an end, with the boys and the rest of the cast getting into performance mode, I just had to ask if they have any pre-show superstitions or rituals. They each gave a big grin and declared themselves to have no real prep habits apart from the normal get in the zone warm-up and allowing yourself to become one with the collective … what they do have is more a don’t do than a do: Apparently the two of them just can’t seem to every have a smoke break together, even if they try!

Here is hoping that the theatre fates will kindly intervene soon and allow these two go-getters at least a short pause in their hectic schedules for a relaxing smoke break together. They definitely deserve it!

If anything is certain then it is that you don’t want to miss Dean and Gideon in Orpheus in Africa, as they, along with the rest of the cast, introduce you to the McAdoo Virginia Jubilee Singers` who visited South Africa during the last decade of the 19th century. So take a look at this video interview and then book your tickets at Computicket!


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