#10TheatreFacts: Jemma Kahn on 'The Borrow Pit' at #NAF18

May 29, 2018

The Borrow Pit is play about 20th Century Men told by a 21st Century Woman. It tells the story of Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. Bacon and Freud were two of Britain’s most influential artists –rock stars of 20th century painting. These men each had a muse who helped them on their way to prodigious fame. As you might suspect, it did not end so well for the muses. 


Writer and director, Jemma Kahn, shares #10TheatreFacts about The Borrow Pit and reveals why you should already have this production penned into your #NAF18 diary.


1. How are you involved with The Borrow Pit?
I have my fingers up to the elbows in most aspects of this show. Together with an extensive creative team I have been conceptualising, researching, designing, writing and illustrating the show for the past year. Rehearsals with the actors have just begun, a month from its opening night. 

2. Where does the idea for The Borrow Pit come from?
One night I was having dinner at a friend’s house (he made either risotto or something with sausages - I don’t remember). Another woman at the table, a portrait painter, told us the creepiest story about Francis Bacon, a famous British painter who for many years had intrigued me. The woman’s story made me think again about Bacon. The following day I was in a bookshop and I found a rare copy of his biography. That seemed fortuitous. 

3. As a production, what genre of theatre best describes it?
Like my other work, this show is kamishibai (Japanese paper theatre), though there have been innovations to the way the medium works (there are several actors each with their own story box this time), so it also unlike my other work. 

4. How would you briefly describe The Borrow Pit to someone who has no idea what it is about to convince him or her that this is a festival must see show?
It’s like a banquet table laden with patent leather food that looks very delicious and then you bite into something and black liquid comes pouring out. 

5. What do you like most about The Borrow Pit?
You’re asking me to play favourites which is unsportsmanlike. 

6. Who would be the ideal audience member to come see The Borrow Pit?
Someone who can sit through the whole show without looking at their goddam cell phone. 

7. What about The Borrow Pit do you think will fascinate or captivate audiences most?
I honestly couldn’t say. It’s always a nice surprise to hear from people what it is that they like about my work. When you make something every detail is given attention for a time, and then lost in the bigger picture. So when someone says ‘I loved that picture’ or ‘that line about … was spot on, it reminded me of…’, then you can remember that in making the show you thought about that line or picture too - and thought it was good enough to keep. 

8. Without giving anything away, what’s your favourite line from The Borrow Pit?
You ask me to play favourites again...but I understand. You would like a teaser. There’s a line spoken in German where Sigmund Freud says to his grandson ‘Lucian, come and pretend to be mildly interested in this man’ and then the man says ‘I must tell you Sigmund my German is very good, having spent or shall we say misspent my youth in Berlin some years ago.’. We are working hard to get the German pitch perfect in order to impress the two and a half Germans who might come to watch. 

9. What message or experience would you like the audience to take away from seeing The Borrow Pit?
Like I said above I cannot anticipate this, but I look forward to hearing what people say. 

10. What does theatre as a lifestyle mean to you?
You eat stones. Finally a non-theatre friend takes pity on you and treats you to a lavish lunch that you can’t enjoy because your teeth have worn away to nubbins.


Venue: Rhodes Box

Dates: 28 - 30 June
Duration: 75min
Age Restriction: 16+ (MNS)
Language: English
Director: Jemma Kahn
Written By: Jemma Kahn
Featured Artists: Jemma Kahn, Tony Miyambo, Wilhelm van der Walt, David Viviers
Booking: nationalartsfestival.co.za 



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