After a short run at the trendy Alexander Bar, Café and Theatre at the end of 2016, Picture Incomplete returns, starring Schoeman Smit under direction of David Fick for one week only 23 to 28 January 2017.
With Picture Incomplete you not only get a one-man play, but a one-man musical, as it sketches out a portrait of a man’s life on what is a rather bizarre birthday for him. I mean, it is hardly ideal to kick off any form of celebration with an eviction notice! As he starts clearing out his possessions, he also clears out his mind in a manner that promises to be both hilarious and moving.
To give you more insight into both the performer and this South African performance of Picture Incomplete (original book by Trent Armand Kendall, with music and lyrics by Michael Polese), Smit as the unfortunate birthday boy this time around shares some thoughts.
It is very clear that a love for the theatre is a lifestyle for Smit, “It's a family business... I'm a third generation musician and entertainer, so it was a natural progression into this crazy beautiful world.” He admits though that the lifestyle isn’t always easy –
“With the sweet comes the sour. The sweet part of the job is you see the world. I've been to places like Italy, Scandinavia and Spain doing what I love. You meet wonderful people and have amazing experiences. The sour part is you don't really get to spend much time with family or your loved ones. You are often part of other people's weekend or birthday or Christmas celebrations - but I would not trade it for anything in the world.”
So performing Picture Incomplete here in Cape Town is as much a treat for Smit as it will be for the audience, as he gets to embrace his passion, while bringing that performing passion to a home-based staged.
But why Picture Incomplete? What about this production initially caught his attention?
“Before I had a chance to read the script, I watched some clips of Trent Armand Kendall doing parts of the show and what appealed to me most was the fast-paced delivery and the quick wit of the characters. They really are very funny people.”
Playing four characters (two men, two women) that he loves, each "for very different reasons", can be very entertaining for an audience, but balancing the hilarity along with the moving moments when dealing with four personalities in the span of an hour can’t be easy.
“Anyone that has done a solo show in any shape or form will tell you that it is one of the hardest things that they have ever done,” Smit admits. “You are alone up there and completely exposed. For me the best way to prepare for this is to let go of any expectation of what I might have of the outcome of the performance and remind myself it really isn't any of my business what the audience thinks of me. What they think of the story I'm telling is much more important.”
Performed in English, with some Afrikaans and a little isiXhosa, audiences can not only expect a great personal commitment to the characters on the part of Smit, but also some differences between the 2008 original staging and this South African take –
“It differs considerably. This version has been tightened to 60 minutes where previously its running time was 90 minutes.... We have also changed the setting of the show. In the original version, the apartment block where it all takes place is in New York. In my version, the setting is a block of flats in Johannesburg. In my head, I picture it to be somewhere like Yeoville or maybe Braamfontein. This was a process that was started by Trent. He initially suggested a localisation…”
With the localisation being inspired by the original visionary himself, it means that any changes will still be true to the original feel of the story with the added bonus of some South African flair, which is an exciting twist. This is however not Picture Incomplete’s first staging in South Africa. Smit was also involved in the 2014 production thereof in Johannesburg, a year which he describes as a crazy one when the big 30 loomed. The best time to set off on a new theatrical adventure then?
“The show was the start of some very exciting and scary changes in my life”, he shares. “David [Fick] has been absolutely instrumental in the success of this version of the show. It was his suggestion to translate parts of the show into other languages, for example. He challenges me to reassess what I think I know about my craft and he has a way of simplifying the most difficult concepts. If you have a person like that, it makes your job as an actor much easier. David is simply brilliant.”
But in the end, why a musical? Why choose a production that uses storytelling through song for such an exciting yet scary challenge?
“Because it is the true international language. You don't need to understand a word of what people are singing to understand the emotion or idea they are trying to convey. If you think about it, you don't even need words to get the message.”
With such a strong emotion driven production (as only a musical can be) Smit ultimately wants his audience “to come in and take what they need from the show. If you want to laugh, laugh. If you want to cry, cry. As long as I make them feel something, I'm happy.”
So go allow yourself to feel along with Smit and his four characters in Picture Incomplete at Alexander Upstairs, the beautifully intimate theatre of Alexander Bar, Café and Theatre which is literally upstairs, by booking online right now, right here: https://goo.gl/ZaX8Mm
The show runs from 23 to 28 January, at 7pm every night. Tickets usually cost R100 per person, but if you pay when you book online you can grab your theatre seat at only R90. So don’t wait too long and then be sad when it is all sold out. Secure your seats now for this one-man musical with Schoeman Smit.