Preview: Award-winning The Unlikely Secret Agent returns, for the 2022 Artscape Women Humanity Arts Festival and will be staged in the Arena

What: The Unlikely Secret Agent- part of 2022 Artscape Women Humanity Arts Festival
When and venue: August 4-9, 2022 in The Arena Theatre at Artscape

Performance times:
~ August 4, 5, 6 and 9 at 18h30
~ August 6, 7 and 9 at 14h30  

Age restriction:PG14 –strong language, racial prejudice and gender-based violence
Tickets: R190 and can be booked at Computicket
Direct booking link:    

Excellent news is that The Fleur du Cap Theatre Award-winning and multiple-nominated, The Unlikely Secret Agent, will be on stage again. It is part of the Artscape Women Humanity Arts Festival – August 4-9, 2022- in The Arena Theatre at Artscape. I saw this superb play, when it premiered at The Drama Factory and raved in my review: [].It went on to nab be eight nominations for the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards. Paul Du Toit won for best director. For the season at the 2022 Artscape Women Humanity Arts Festival, Wessel Pretorius joins the cast in the role of Ronnie Kasrils. Du Toit played the role in the launch season. This is a wonderful opportunity to see this play – outstanding script, performances, staging and design. Info as supplied:

Award-winning The Unlikely Secret Agent returns for Artscape Women Humanity Arts Festival 2022

The  Fleur du Cap Theatre Award-winning and multiple-nominated production THE UNLIKELY SECRET AGENT will be performed from August 4 to 9 at the Artscape Women Humanity Arts Festival.

Presented by Unlikely Productions, the play was nominated for a total of eight Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards, with Paul du Toit winning Best Director.

Du Toit also adapted the story for the stage, based on Ronnie Kasrils’ Alan Paton Award-winning novel THE UNLIKELY SECRET AGENT which explores the brave journey of Eleanor, Kasrils’ wife and a clandestine agent for the Underground ANC, as she navigates her escape from Apartheid South Africa.

Erika Marais was nominated for Best Actress for her portrayal of Eleanor Kasrils, with fellow cast members Gideon Lombard, Ntlanhla Morgan Kutu and Sanda Shandu all nominated for Best Supporting Actor Awards. Paul du Toit was part of the original cast, performing the role of Ronnie Kasrils, for which he received a Best Actor award nomination.

Acclaimed actor and Gold Standard Bank Ovation Award winner Wessel Pretorius (Ont (Undone);  Balbesit; Wie’s Bang vir Virginia Woolf?) joins the cast to take over this role for the run at Artscape.

Other Fleur du Cap Theatre Award nominations for the production include Daniel Galloway for lighting design and Jahn Beukes for sound design.

Set and wardrobe Coordination as well as AV design for the production is by Paul du Toit and Salene Bekker.

Praise for the production has included:

it is about a remarkable woman who fought against the evils of the Apartheid regime to gain freedom for herself and thousands of others….acted out on stage with belief, courage and passion by the players…This play should be seen by everyone who looks to overthrow evil dictatorships…..A must for school children to learn and grow from their own history. Richard Loring

excellent …. Paul du Toit’s brilliant adaptation of Ronnie Kasril’s book about his beloved late wife, Eleanor, will remind you of theatre’s power to stoke the imagination like nothing else on earth. It’s an important story – a bit of our history conjured into a context that challenges and provokes and makes you laugh and then makes you cry….the ensemble is dazzling, the writing sparkles, the emotions are heartbreakingly real.’ Keith Bain

an insightful and thoughtful glimpse into the story of an extraordinary woman, willing to put the struggle of others before her own survivalBarbara Loots, Theatre Scene Cape Town

in equal measures chilling and heart-warming….THE UNLIKELY SECRET AGENT truly is a must-see. It is a part of South African history that needs to be told and this play tells it so beautifully through a cast of talented and dedicated actors.’ Faeron Wheeler, Broadway World

The Unlikely Secret Agent is a poignant evocation of the life of a woman of courage, evocatively framed and contextualised in the struggle for a democratic South Africa…. powerful performances…an engrossing piece of theatre’. Robyn Cohen, The Cape Robyn

We are honoured to be presenting Eleanor Kasrils’ inspiring, powerful story during Woman’s Month at Artscape,” says actress and founder of Unlikely Productions Erika Marais.

This extraordinary woman showed us what it truly means to have humanity, to consider the needs of others above yourself, and to remain resolutely committed to your ideals of fairness and justice. Eleanor, we salute you!”

The story: Eleanor, an unassuming, young single mother is arrested at Griggs Bookstore where she works in Durban and taken for questioning. The police are on the hunt for her lover, the notorious “terrorist”, Red Ronnie Kasrils. She finds herself detained under the 90-day detention act and brutally interrogated. They will “break her or hang her”. Written and directed by award winning actor and playwright, Paul du Toit and based on the Alan Paton Award winning book by Ronnie Kasrils, The Unlikely Secret Agent tells a true story of bravery and hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

It is 1963, South Africa. The country is on a knife edge. Political protest, sabotage and violence has engulfed the country. Government forces of the Apartheid regime, under Hendrik Verwoerd, brutally suppress resistance. Under the State of Emergency, the feared Special Branch of the police arrest anyone suspected of being involved in underground activities. Ronnie is wanted for his involvement in a string of sabotage bombings of electricity pylons, the Durban post office and the offices of the Special Branch. There is no point in her resisting, the police “know everything”. But do they really? Eleanor is keeping a secret. She is a clandestine agent for the Underground ANC. But she must protect her comrades and Ronnie. She makes the daring decision to fake a nervous breakdown in order to be transferred to a psychiatric institution. From there, she begins to plot her escape. The Unlikely Secret Agent will be performed from August 4 to 9 at Artscape in the Arena Theatre.

New cast member: Wessel Pretorius joins the cast of Unlikely Secret Agent, as Ronnie Kasrils.  Supplied.

Unlikely Secret Agent – 2022 Artscape Women Humanity Arts Festival

Paul du Toit (writer/director)

Paul became a household name to South African television audiences after playing Malan Koster for 9 seasons of BINNELANDERS. He also co-hosted and co-produced ROUGH OR SMOOTH through his production company Fanagalo Films.  

He was recently seen internationally as Dewalt in BULLETPROOF 3 for the BBC as well as evil Commander Lazarro in SYFY Channel’s VAGRANT QUEEN. Other global projects have seen him do everything from pilot berg choppers in MAZE RUNNER 3, to hunting big fish in SHARK KILLER to performing top secret FBI experiments in TREMORS: COLD DAY IN HELL. His local film credits include BEYOND THE RIVER, NOEM MY SKOLLIE, BLOODLINE, SEMI SOET, LIEFLING die Movie, SKILPOPPE, TROUVOETE, FRENCH TOAST, MOSSIE and STIEKYT.  

On stage he won the 2022 Fleur du Cap as Best Director for THE UNLIKELY SECRET AGENT. He was awarded the 2018 Fiesta for Best Actor and Best Actor at Aardklop 2017 for MELK EN VLEIS as well as the 20017 Fleur Du Cap as Best Actor in a Musical for HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH. He also won the 2001 FNB Vita for Best Supporting Actor playing Cassio in OTHELLO. Other notable performances saw him as Biff in DEATH OF A SALESMAN (Best Supporting Actor nomination Kyknet Fiestas), John Merrick in THE ELEPHANT MAN, Stephen in OLD WICKED SONGS (FNB Vita nomination for Best Actor), Orlando in AS YOU LIKE IT, Edgar in KING LEAR, Pieter Dirk Uys’ AUDITIONING ANGELS, IN GLAS, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, SKIN TIGHT, INTO THE WOODS, HONK! (Vita nomination, Best Performance in A Musical) and George in SAME TIME NEXT YEAR winning an Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown). He spent 19 months in fishnets playing Frank N Furter in THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW (Naledi nomination, Best Performance In A Musical) and was also in the Fugard Theatre’s production of “ROCKY” as Bradearning him a Fleur du Cap nomination for best lead in a musical. He also starred in UIT DIE BLOUTE, AUNTY MERLE THE MUSICAL, TWO TO TANGO and played Roelof in the acclaimed stage production of HEMELRUIM.  

Paul was one of the creators of the long-running OFFBEAT BROADWAY series, which earned him a FNB Vita nomination for Best Performance In A Musical as well as a nomination for Best Musical. His one man show, ARE YOU KIDDING? played to sold out houses and rave reviews at the 2014 National Arts Festival in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) and at the Hilton Arts Festival.  

On local TV he played Albert Hugo in Kyknet’s DIE WATERFRONT, Gert Grobler, the butcher of Merweville in DIE BOEKKLUB, commanded a pirate posse in BLACK SAILS, went legal in FYNSKRIF, was suspicious in DIE BYL, got murdered in season two of BOLAND MOORDE and camped it up in KOM ONS KAMP.  

He has an honours degree in Drama, trained in Opera technique at the Stellenbosch University Conserve and has sung in venues both dubious and illustrious from Alberton to Zanzibar.   He currently spends his time between Vancouver, Canada and Cape Town, South Africa. He has a mortgage in one and a heating bill in the other, but they’re both beautiful places to live and work!    

Erika Marais  

After studying drama at the University of Pretoria, Erika initially did educational theatre and puppeteering programs, with a special focus on the disadvantaged communities of the Mamelodi Township. She has also spent several years teaching drama at Amoyo Performing Arts, situated in Imizamo Yethu Hout Bay.  

She has starred in various short films during the span of her career, including KARNAVALTYD, which formed part of KykNet‘s “Ons Stories” series.   Her theatre credits include THE WISDOM OF EVE, INSPECTOR DRAKE AND THE BLACK WIDOW, THE HOUSE GUEST, SUNSHINE BOYS and THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET. Erika performed her first one-woman show, JAM EVERY OTHER DAY, which she was also responsible for writing, along with Celia Musikanth, from the memoir of Emmaleen Kriel. The show toured to the National Arts Festival and Hermanus FynArts in 2018. She has also co-written and performed in YOUR PERFECT LIFE which won a Standard Bank Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival in 2019 and again in 2021.  

Last year [2021], Erika performed the role of Eleanor Kasrils in THE UNLIKELY SECRET AGENT, for which she received a Fleur du Cap Theatre Award nomination for Best Actress. As the founder of Unlikely Productions, she also produced the play, which was nominated for a total of eight awards, with Paul du Toit winning Best Director.  

Sanda Shandu  

Born and raised in Newcastle KZN, Sanda Shandu is a Cape Town based actor and musician.

Not long after attaining a BSocSci degree from UCT, he landed his first professional role in The Fugard Theatre’s Orpheus in Africa as ‘Richard Collins’. He entered SABC3’s Presenter Search the same year and finished as a runner up. In the 2016 December season he joined forces with David Kramer once again playing various roles in The Fugard’s District 6: Kanala (various roles) musical.   2017 brought about more work at The Fugard Theatre where he landed a role in South Africa’s legendary hit musical King Kong, portraying the role of “Lucky” which earned him his first Fleur du Cap and Naledi Awards.

He received another Fleur du Cap nomination for his supporting role in, Richard III (various roles), at Maynardville in 2019 and his third nomination for his supporting role in The Unlikely Secret Agent (various roles). On screen you can see him in Netflix’s The Kissing Booth as “Randy”. And locally you can catch him on TV series Skemerdans as ‘Charlie’ on Showmax and South African movie Good Madam as ‘Stuart’.  

Gideon Lombard  

Gideon was born in Namibia. Since graduating as a theatre maker from the University of Cape Town’s Drama Department in 2011, Gideon has been involved in various multi award-winning productions, which have toured extensively nationally and abroad. He works in a wide range of fields, including theatre, film, television, music, opera, dance and fine art.  

Recent highlights include directing KARATARA. The production has been nominated in 4 categories, including best director, at the 2022 KKNK. Die Reuk van Appels, a one-man show based on Mark Behr’s critically acclaimed novel. This production has garnered Gideon 6 “Best Actor” awards.   Recent films include STAM (The Tree), for which he was nominated for a SAFTA as Best Actor. In February 2020 he shot his 1000th episode as an original cast member of KykNET’s Suidooster. Gideon is the Assistant Director of Cape Town Opera’s production of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, which has travelled to Bordeaux, Barcelona, Madrid, Buenos Aires and South Korea.   He is the co-founder and producer of Good Egg (Pty) Ltd, a production company based in Cape Town. They are currently developing a limited series for KykNET.    

Ntlanhla Morgan Kutu  

Ntlanhla Morgan Kutu was born and spent most of his formative years in Johannesburg. He moved to Cape Town as a teen and discovered his love and passion for the arts.  Since graduating from AFDA Cape Town in 2019 with a BA in Live Performance, Ntlanhla has been involved in various commercials, short films, television series, and a multi award nominated & winning theatre production.   Recent highlights include starring in the multi-award nominated/winning & critically acclaimed stage production, THE UNLIKELY SECRET AGENT, in 2021. This production was Ntlanhla’s debut performance in the professional theatre industry. This production garnered Ntlanhla his second Fleur Du Cap nomination, and his first nomination (Best supporting actor) in a professional environment.   Aside from Acting, Ntlanhla Morgan Kutu, is an Executive Director of a specialist supplier of Industrial Laundry equipment to the Southern African market within the ‘extra heavy’ equipment category. And is the co-founder of the recently formed Lion’s Tale Productions (Pty) Ltd, which is a videography and film production company based in Cape Town.     

Wessel Pretorius  

Wessel is an actor, writer and theatre-maker based in Cape Town.  He wrote, directed and performed his solo piece Ont – to much acclaim and travelled internationally with the translated version Undone, winning the Standard Bank Ovation: Gold at National Arts Festival Fringe (2014).

Pretorius mostly works within the Afrikaans Festival circuit, having created pieces like Klara Maas Se Hart is Gebreek, Die Vloeistof Trilogie, Die Ontelbare 48 and Die Dag is Bros.

As actor he has performed in Balbesit (directed by Jaco Bouwer), Wie’s Bang vir Virginia Woolf? (directed by Christiaan Olwagen), Bloed en Rose (directed by Marthinus Basson and Twelfth Night (directed by Geoffrey Hyland). Wessel’s work blends comedy, pathos, storytelling and more often than not, confetti, to marry poetry to the mundane.    

✳Featured image: Left to right -Gideon Lombard, Erika Marais, Sanda Shandu, Ntlanhla Kutu, Paul du Toit. Photo: Jeremeo Le Cordeur. Images supplied.Sponsored content.

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