Behind the scenes at the National Arts Festival: Sue Diepeveen

Several of SBAM’s artistes went to the annual National Arts Festival (NAF) in Grahamstown last month. We chatted to them about their experiences at the world-famous event.

Q1: Tell us about the production you were in.

I directed Your Perfect Life with Erika Marias and Faeron Wheeler, which makes it an all-SBAM production. It’s a lovely story about two very different women who bump into each other at a high school reunion. It is a play about how women perceive themselves and others, about holding on to relationships that matter and being happy with the choices you make for yourself.  It was delightful to work with these two lovelies and our production prep spanned two continents which was a challenge but the actors were committed to the work and this was very evident on stage. I think this is why we won an Ovation Award for the piece!

I also produced and acted in Two To Tango with Paul Du Toit. This Mike Van Graan remake was directed by Ira Blanckenberg and is about a typical South African couple trying to cope with the daily grind of marriage in a South Africa which is mercurial in its changing landscape. It is a really fun comedy with a bit of a punch and the audiences really connected to the characters.

Q2: Tell us who you played and what your character is all about.

In Two to Tango I play Lisa who is an architect with two teenaged daughters and a husband Andy. As Lisa heads into middle-age she struggles with her identity and also her insecurities about having a younger husband. She is trying to regain her youth and reclaim herself as the empty nest syndrome is about to hit…the question is…where does Andy fit into the picture? She is determined to embrace the “New” South Africa and this leads to some questionable discussions around procuring friends of colour.

Q3: How did you find the festival this year?

On the N2 hahahaha – just kidding… I think it has really come into its own and there was a lot on offer for everyone. The quality of the shows that I saw was really good. Our shows were fairly well attended and we got great feedback.

Q4: What was the favourite thing that you saw while there?

Oh wow – so much. I think The Bookbinder stands out as a clever piece of beautiful storytelling and also The Blue Period Of Milton Van Der Spuy. There is no denying that Rob Van Vuuren in Electric Ju-Ju is also a masterclass in theatre!

Q5: What is your stand-out moment for your experience at NAF this year?

Well of course what could be more surreal than winning an Ovation Award for Your Perfect Life? I am beyond proud of the actors and the piece as a whole. Then there is the realisation that a lifelong dream has been fulfilled and that I have actually produced a beautiful, relevant piece of theatre that people enjoyed at a National Arts Festival with Two to Tango. It doesn’t get better than that! It was great to be stopped in the street by audiences who wanted to share how seeing the piece had led to three hour discussions at dinner!

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