Theatre Interview: Didintle Khunou – A Better Life, Or Tendering One’s Reservations

December 15, 2021

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By BRUCE DENNILL

A Better Life was commissioned and produced by The Market Theatre as part of its 45th anniversary programming celebration. Making his eagerly awaited comeback to the theatre after ten years is director and playwright Mpumelelo Paul Grootboom. Wish your life was different and better? What if someone holds the key to the life of your dreams? How do you get the person to unlock it? Do you want a better life? The play is about a failed young novelist turned driver, Tiro Kekana, who discovers that his company has been used by his middle-aged boss, a tenderpreneur, Vuyo Maduna, to secure himself and his boozy wife Connie lucrative but fraudulent government contracts. Tiro’s feisty, ambitious live-in partner Naledi Dikobe, convinces Tiro that their financial troubles could be solved by confronting the Madunas and demanding a share of the profits. The stage is set for a tense showdown. Didintle Khunou stars as Naledi.

 

Live performance: the thrill versus the nerves – where are you on that curve as a new show starts?

It begins with major nerves the closer we got to previews, but after dress rehearsals, the nerves turn into a thrill and excitement to play and expand on what we’ve rehearsed, and to own the story as we tell it.

In a best-case scenario, what are you looking for in a role? What is the main basis for that decision – the script, the people involved, the challenge to your skills, the impact (positive or negative) it might have on your life in general, or perhaps something else?

The story is a key deciding factor for me. Questions I ask myself are: Is it going against the grain? What is the significance of the story in relation to our context? And what is it saying about our humanity? What does it mean to me and does it move me? These are what influence me to join a project. I’m also enticed by roles that bring a level of difficulty I haven’t faced before. If I feel challenged by the work, the reward that comes with overcoming a challenge I have never faced is so fulfilling. It makes me feel like I am expanding my skill set and growing.

 

Acting is often a vocation, a thing you can’t not do. How true is that for you now? Has it changed over the years – for practical, perhaps banal reasons? And how do you, or would you like to, keep your calling front and centre in your life?

It’s definitely a vocation for me. I’ve learned to branch out into other interests but I somehow find that they always feed my work as an actor. I think I’ll be performing until my bones are to frail and weak to get me to move. We can all agree that being an artist in our country isn’t the easiest of jobs. The best way to supplement my acting work has come from generating multiple sources of income. I never want to be in a position where I’m accepting acting jobs that I don’t even believe in because I’m living cheque to cheque. Our craft is truly a spiritual calling = it is sacred. So one needs to protect it by making sure that you choose work because you believe in it and not because you need the money.

 

What are the toughest expectations to deliver on – all the way from the first audition to the end of the run?

This process has taught me to be very tolerant and open to how different artists work. No  director, playwright or actors will work the same as others or as myself. A spirit of collaboration and openness is what I’ve learned.

 

Tell us about your current production, and what makes your character interesting to play?

I play Naledi Dikobe. She is a no-nonsense, smart, go-getter who knows what she wants, and she’ll do a lot to get what she believes she deserves. Highly ambitious and very feisty, her energy is a complete contrast to Tiro’s. She’s an instigator, which is always fun to play.

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