If anyone thinks that theatre is in the midst of a survival crisis or that all the great stories have already been told, you just need to sit down for a coffee chat with the vibrant young playwright, Dara Beth, who recently obtained her UCT Drama Degree with distinction.
When you ask what her vision is, she bravely and very candidly acknowledges that she is still formulating her vision, and can’t yet precisely express it. But with great respect for the process and a maturity that surpasses her years she explains, “Every play brings you closer to your vision and the underlying themes that we don’t recognise in life.” What she does know for certain is that she would like to challenge audiences. “I want to put uncomfortable situations on stage. I like staging the betweens in relations.”
A brave creative without a doubt, so then surely there must be other strong creatives she looks to for inspiration or would like to work with? “When it comes to people in the industry who inspire me, I don’t see enough work from different voices”, Dara shares. “Men in this town can afford to be ‘adventurous’ and take risks. So, in principle, I want to work with womxn. I want to work with womxn like Amy Jephta. The work she stages is edgy and sexy. She knows how to translate intimacy to stage as more than just a ploy.”
So, if you see romance in her creations, Dara says that is incidental. Playing on a romantic connection in a production is too obvious and done too often. She rather wants to showcase “real authentic relationships” from various angles, especially real connections between womxn, “I am so tired of seeing womxn compete.”
When you see her take on the industry with a kind smile, buckets of talent and a clear passion for storytelling, one soon realises that Dara isn’t scared to take off the playwright and director’s hat if the theatrical moment demands it. At this year's KKNK, a predominantly Afrikaans festival, she effortlessly stepped into her theatre tech boots when she ran tech for Wessel Pretorius and David Viviers in their acclaimed production, Klara Maas se Hart is Gebreek, ensomeer: Die Vloeistof Trilogie.
Although the show was fast paced and very Afrikaans, Dara, an English American from Jersey, did not miss a beat, proving that her theatre instincts are right on the money. All the cues were skillfully executed to complement the script and the performance, revealing her respect and understanding for the various elements and nuances of theatre as a complete package. When someone makes something that technical look easy, you know they are good at it!
Oh and did you know she sings too?! Growing up in a very musical family, with her grandmother even having been a performer for the troops, she could not fight her performance genes, but with a glint in her eye she admits she kept the rebel inside her alive, “I took every rock song my parents taught me and turned it into jazz”. With that fierce and feisty songstress attitude you may even recently have seen her perform alongside her mother, as the duo PlumSong, taking Cape Town by storm, one performance at a time.
Building on that relationship and shared talent, Dara has set her sights on creating a PlumSong cabaret to be debuted at this year’s National Arts Festival (NAF), under the Hungry Minds Productions banner. The show will be titled Just a Song and a Dance, exploring their unique mother-daughter relationship and their PlumSong story.
Dara is however not just taking on one NAF debut production, but two. “I’m also in the process of creating a physical theatre piece called The Undine”, she reveals. “The Undine is a story exploring what it means to heal yourself; how do you come back from a trauma? How do you become human again?” This “very dark, very still and very wet” play will star Lauren Blackwell and Estelle Terblanche.
Then not to fear Cape Town, Dara won’t be debuting all her creations at the NAF only. Apart from those two projects, she is also working on a new piece called Nasty Womxn, which will be staged this November at Alexander Upstairs, the intimate theatre situated within Alexander Bar.
“It is a collection of sketches of womxn in the here and now, whose characters and stories are inspired by the origin stories of womxn-cum-monsters in Greek mythology. I’m playing with how most origin stories of womxn in Greek mythology are dependent on the violence towards or violation of womxn by men. And the reality of how that’s perpetuated the way we envision most womxn characters today.”
Just by that description alone, I am already looking forward to seeing Nasty Womxn onstage!
As is evident from the range of productions she is currently working on, Dara Beth is a talented young theatre creative, and a very inspirational womxn, who believes that theatre can move boundaries. Definitely someone to watch, as she will undoubtedly make a name for herself on the Cape Town theatre scene.