By ALLISON FOAT
Krotoa, Eva van de Kaap is a music theatre production presented by Artscape in association with the Dutch theatre collective, the Volksoperahuis. The production was first performed to acclaim in The Netherlands in October 2018. February marks Black History Month in many countries and 2019 is the UN’s International Year of Indigenous Languages, which makes this production all the more significant and relevant in South Africa today.
Set in present-day South Africa, a Dutch actor and singer (Kees Scholten) and a South African actress (Bianca Flanders) meet on the film set of Krotoa, Eva van de Kaap. He takes the role of Jan van Riebeeck, the VOC merchant commander who established a refreshment station at the Cape in 1652. She plays Krotoa, the young Khoe girl taken into Van Riebeeck’s household who went on to become a key negotiator and translator between the Dutch and the local people at a young age. The first Khoe woman to be baptised and the first to officially marry a European, Krotoa was emotionally battered by the clash of two cultures. The two actors are not unscathed as they enter a whirlwind of confrontations during their creative process and even in their own world where Krotoa’s story shakes them up. An inevitable dramatic conclusion is set in motion.
Multilingual and intercultural, Krotoa, Eva van de Kaap, is written by filmmaker and journalist Sylvia Vollenhoven. It is directed by Basil Appollis and presented in English, Afrikaans, Dutch and Khoekhoe with English subtitles. The production is a perspective-changing tribute to a neglected and contested aspect of shared history.
The story is brought to the stage in an innovative way and sheds new light on an ancient narrative. Not so long ago few people knew Krotoa. This play contends that the story has not ended, identifies an awakening and compellingly connects the dots between what transpired at a 17th Century Fort and events of today.
The music is composed by South African Frazer Barry and Jef Hofmeister, from the Volksoperahuis in The Netherlands, lighting design is by Gé Wegman, production is by Blythe Stuart-Linger (South Africa) and the head technician is Sanderijn Wagenvoorde.
What inspired you to study drama and was there anyone in particular who influenced your career choice?
Bianca Flanders: I come from a musical family. I’ve performed for as long as I can remember so there was never really any doubt about what I would do. Also, I’m terrible at maths and science so that eliminates a fair number of possible career choices.
What was your first professional role and how did it impact you- what were the major learning curves for a rookie professional actress?
My first professional role was in Die Kersieboord with The Mechanicals, directed by Sandra Temmingh. I was quite starstruck as I was working with actors that I had always admired, like Oscar Peterson and Tinarie Van Wyk Loots. What surprised me the most was how humble, kind and generous they were. I remember thinking “I want to be like that”. I think that was done of the first big lessons for me- now matter how successful you become, stay humble. In this industry you can be on top the one day, and then without work for a year So I always try to be grateful.
You’ve worked with David Kramer a few times- what was that like and what did you take away from the experience?
I really enjoy working with Mr Kramer. He’s always so passionate and dedicated to his work. The amount of research he does is absolutely mindblowing! Working with him has taught me to be disciplined; that my work starts before I even walk into the theatre. He also gives the actors a lot of room to bring their own ideas and proposals to the characters they’re playing. This teaches you to trust yourself, and it helps build your confidence. Even if sometimes you might pitch something and it’s in fact totally ridiculous!
Tell us about Krotoa, Eva van de Kaap, in a nutshell and in your own words?
Krotoa,Eva Van de Kaap is a play that deals with the past and present, call and response. It’s set up in a very clever way. We see two actors, one Dutch man and a South African woman, playing the role of Jan Van Riebeeck and Krotoa on a film set. We are continuously jumping in time, seeing pieces of Krotoa’s life and what she went through to the present and how what has happened to her affects people today.
This year is the UN’s International Year of Indigenous Languages, a significant and relevant year for a play like this to be staged – what has it meant to you to do the play and how did the story affected you personally?
I was incredibly nervous to take on this project for a number of reasons. Krotoa was an incredible woman and an icon in South African history, and I wanted to play her with integrity. The subject matter is also so important and so relevant and has evoked such a strong response in people, and it’s always a bit nerve wracking to get involved in a project like that. It has also been a beautiful and moving process. This part has forced me to question a lot of things about myself, and about my world as I’ve understood it.
You’re engaged to another wonderful theatre talent, Dean Balie. What is it like with both of you being in the theatre and what do you do for downtime to get away from it all?
I really enjoy having a partner who works in the theatre. It means he totally gets the job. The hours can be really hectic, so it’s wonderful to have a partner who understands. We also help one another run lines and character ideas which is fun! To be honest, our downtime usually involves going to the theatre to watch plays! We also like having friends over for dinner – I live to cook! – hanging out with our families and watching Netflix.
What advice would you give to aspirant actors?
It sounds so cheesy, but to believe in yourself. You’re the only you, and that’s the magic. It’s important to be disciplined, work as hard as you can, and be kind. People remember that.