Happiness interview: Fun and joy of staging Cinderella at The Masque Theatre, Cape Town, December 9-18, 2021

What: Cinderella – a magical, musical celebration
When: December 9-18, 2021
Where: Masque Theatre, 37 Main Road, Muizenberg, Cape Town
Tickets:  R100 https://tickets.computicket.com/event/cinderella/4438168
Hashtag: #CinderellaAtTheMasque

December 2021, Rona year two, and I think that we all agree that we need to spread festive cheer and happiness. Faeron Wheeler, who is directing Cinderella – a magical, musical celebration, in Cape Town at the much loved community theatre, Masque in Muizenberg and some of the cast members reflect on why this production of Cinderella is making them very happy. They are thrilled to be back on stage and have had tremendous fun putting the show together. May the bling Cinderella slipper be with all of us and transport us to Cinderella-land. Please mask up, sanitize and get there early for Rona check-in.

The origin story of Cinderella- how this ‘magical, musical celebration’ came about – in six weeks

Acclaimed theatre maker Faeron Wheeler is in the director’s seat and she has put together the script. The Masque is staging Cinderella in association with Constantiaberg Players [CTP]. As to how the production came about. They asked and she was delighted by the opportunity to cook up a fun and fabulous family show for the festive season. Faeron Wheeler: “It was one of those things where an idea was sparked and within a few days, a new production was born. Daniel and Nicky Enticott (Chairman of the Masque board and Chairperson of CTP, respectively) were inspired by the recent movie, Cinderella and thought it would be great fun to put on a fundraiser show for the theatre. I got a phone call and my rubber arm was twisted very easily into saying ‘yes’. I believe the rest of the production crew was brought in using similar charm tactics. We were all just so keen to be back in a theatre and having fun that we didn’t stop to think about how short the rehearsal period would be. In total, we had six weeks of rehearsal time. The cast and crew have been amazing though, jumping in with both feet and doing so with big smiles on their faces. The energy and enthusiasm is wonderful, as is the dedication to making this show great. I’m so blessed to be working with such a great team.”

Musical or panto and does pandemic figure in terms of curfew etc?

There is music – that is why the sub-header isa magical, musical celebration” and there is humour. Is it a musical or a panto? Faeron Wheeler: “I’d say it’s more on the musical side, with some pantomime elements. We wanted to just have fun with the script and see what worked on stage. It’s definitely got something for everyone to laugh at.” Cinders is a much loved fairy tale of aspiration, self-affirmation and determination– we need that now. Does the script reference the pandemic, lockdown regulations, load shedding etc – or does it bypass the here and now of our Rona lives? Wheeler: “We have a few moments where we reference the here and now – you can’t make a panto without having that fun. Although our biggest reference to today’s world is how the Herald uses social media to make announcements to the village. The royal herald was the person who made proclamations and announcements from the crown – the person who announces the ball in this case.”

The Fabulous Fairy Godmother is played by Bonolo Moloi

Bonolo is a newcomer “to the Masque realm”, enthuses Wheeler:  “We love her. She is the 6th child out of seven in her family and describes herself as Zutho (speaks Zulu, is Sotho). When asked about her acting career, she had this to say: ‘Acting used to be a side hustle/hobby because I was afraid to take it seriously. Many opportunities came my way but I was scared. I actually auditioned in front of Sean Penn and I had no idea who he was and everyone was like ‘omg omg’. I was like ‘uhmm this is just an old white man’. Probably why I didn’t get the part – also I had no idea what I was doing. I decided to be honest with myself and take it seriously when corporate didn’t work out for me. I started reading books, attending workshops and grew deeper in love with the craft the more I learnt. It’s allowed me to express empathy, taught me to be present and listen more attentively’. When describing her character, the Fabulous Fairy Godmother, Bonolo called her ‘an over the top prim and proper but somewhat spicy diva’. She says that the FFG  is a sophista-ratchet. We love that”.

Cinders is a fundraiser for the Masque Theatre

This show is a fundraiser for the Masque and the community theatre needs it – after the pandemic and loss of income, with no audiences and having to replace the roof and attend to maintenance. Erica Schofield- a trustee of the Masque –reflects:  “The Masque Theatre is undergoing an ultra-marathon of a resilience test. With two years of hard knocks for the theatre world in general, the community around the 61-year-old historic theatre is holding on by its fingernails with sheer grit and determination. This resilience comes with gifts however: some of the most magical shows have been birthed during this time, and a scholarship for a truly talented theatre student has been supported by patrons. It is in times that require true commitment that true commitment shines to the fore, with offers of window cleaning even freely give. Online, The Masque Theatre has been receiving outpourings of love and support messages. On top of that, the theatre’s board now hails from as far as Canada and UK. Covid has led to a world opening up – online.”

Happiness: The three leads of Cinderella at The Masque December 2021, reflect on what makes them happy  

Erin Gemell – Cinderella
Aidan Lewis – Prince Charming
Bonolo MoloiFabulous Fairy Godmother

What makes you happy right now in your work?

Connecting with people through storytelling. It’s a beautiful thing to feel an audience engage with what you’re saying and doing onstage, laughing with you, crying with you; taking that journey with you. It’s even more magical in a show like Cinderella, when children are involved, as they are already so tuned-in to that storytelling aspect of live theatre. To see a child’s eyes light up when they see a princess or to hear them gasp in fright at a villain is the best feeling in the world. I’m so grateful that this is what I get to do every day.  

Aidan: Being creative with others who have craved to do the exact same, and feeling the majesty of a stage you’re standing on.  

Bonolo: The people and the fact that I can just be myself.

What made you laugh or smile, putting this show together?

Erin: There are so many things I could say… the Tik Tok challenges we’ve gotten to film have me absolutely rolling with laughter. Taking pictures in the Company Gardens was so much fun, and that was where I wore the Cinderella dress for the first time. To be completely honest, though, the whole Cinderella team brings a smile to my face every single day. We have an amazing group of actors who are as dedicated as they are hilarious, and having Faeron [Wheeler] and her team to guide us has been wonderful.

Aidan: Becoming great friends with my colleagues, especially my Cinderella, whose random observations give an extra boost of energy.  

Bonolo:  Oooh wow that’s a hard one because at every single rehearsal someone is bound to just do or say something crazy or weird. I’ve laughed at every single rehearsal but my favourite characters that get me every time are the step-family.

What is the funniest thing/joke that you have heard or happened during rehearsal – which made you laugh?

Erin: Definitely, Erika Marais [Lady Vivianna de Meanfacé] grabbing onto my foot and getting dragged away by the stepsisters. Someone even caught a video of it. The step-family is hands-down the most entertaining part of each rehearsal. Wayne Ronné [Constantinia] and Tayla Sargent [Narcissistica] – their lines are hilarious but their ad-libs always send me over the edge. It’s really hard to keep a straight face in a scene with them.  

Aidan: The amazing energy from the management and our quirky director: Her giggles when we did the Prince meets Cinderella scene.  

Where is your happy place in Cape Town?  

Erin: The Gin Bar in town [Cape Town CBD]. My friends and I congregate there on a regular basis to debrief on life and death and everything in-between. That or Hout Bay beach. My dad loved sailing so any time I need to clear my head or recharge, I head straight to the ocean. It always reminds me of that saying – ‘the cure for anything is salt water; sweat, tears or the sea’.  

Aidan: A wine farm in Stellenbosch or Bloubergstrand.  

Bonolo: My happy place in Cape Town right now has to be -home.        
Cinderella state of mind: Constantinia and Narcissistica – Wayne Ronné and Tayla Sargent – gearing up for Cinderella at the Masque – Dec 2021.

❇ Images supplied. Related coverage on TheCapeRobyn: https://thecaperobyn.co.za/theatre-preview-cinderella-a-magical-musical-celebration-at-the-masque-cape-town/