Theatre interview: Sanda Shandu talks about his roles in The Unlikely Secret Agent- The Eleanor Kasrils Story, premiering at The Drama Factory, Strand, Western Cape, South Africa, June 2021

Sanda Shandu – actor stage and screen – South Africa

Instagram: @itsanda_control
Current project: The Unlikely Secret Agent – The Eleanor Kasrils Story
When: June 10-20, 2021, The Drama Factory, Strand, Western Cape

Cape based actor Sanda Shandu is thrilled to be back on stage, after pandemic interruptus, performing in The Unlikely Secret Agent – The Eleanor Kasrils Story, at the Drama Factory. Shandu (29) is a musical theatre star, with Naledi and Fleur Du Cap Theatre best supporting actor awards [2018] for his stand-out role as Lucky in King Kong at the Fugard Theatre. He has also performed Shakespeare [Maynardville 2019, Richard III​], comedy, improv, TV and film. Catch him, in Skemerdans, currently showing on Showmax and on The Kissing Booth III, on Netflix, starting August [2021]. Yeah, he is only 29 and he has achieved all this – across stage and screen.

With The Unlikely Secret Agent, Shandu, has the opportunity to step back in time to 1963, and grapple with roles in this drama set during Apartheid, when Eleanor Kasrils was a single mother; a secret agent, fighting at tremendous personal risk, with extreme bravery, in the Struggle for a democratic South Africa. The play is based and adapted from the award winning novel of the same name, by Ronnie Kasrils.

Shandu was born in 1991 “in post-apartheid.” He says:  “I play quite a few characters in the play which is so much fun… I see myself in the responsibility privilege can play in fighting for equality. I can see my position as a man and the effect it can bring for Women’s rights. But as a Black person in these roles I see pain, anger and resilience. Come to the show and see your position and what you’re willing to do to help those in more difficult positions.”  After theatre being essentially shuttered, he enthuses: “I am elated being back in the theatre. Live productions have taken a huge set back from the pandemic and theatres are still struggling to manage so I feel really lucky to be a part of this… It is a great story to tell…”

In terms of stories, Shandu’s film and stage career reads as a wonderful narrative in its own right. Although Shandu’s love for the performing arts, was instilled when he was at school [Cordwalles Preparatory School for Boys and Michaelhouse Boarding School in KZN], he had put aside his theatrical aspirations for academia and received a BSC degree from UCT [Economics and Organisational Psychology degree]. After completing his degree, Shandu was a singing as a waitron at Star Dust Theatrical Restaurant in Cape Town [formerly in Rondebosch, now located in Woodstock]. On one of his shifts, David Kramer was in the restaurant. Kramer invited him to audition for Orpheus in Africa at The Fugard: “I landed the audition and that’s where it all began. I got the right shift I guess.” King Kong followed and accolades as Lucky. Shandu subsequently performed in Kramer’s District Six- Kanala – also at The Fugard. The Fugard no longer exists. It’s permanent closure was announced this year. I marvel that I had the opportunity to see Shandu in these three home brewed musicals- extraordinary productions.

It sounds like a meteoric career rise but Shandu was smitten by the arts from an early age: “Performing has been an interest for as long as I can remember. I started playing piano at eight years old: Voice training from the beginning of high school as well as drums. I was involved with all things music; jazz band, KZN Youth Choir, Chamber Choirs, Marimba Band. I got my formal training in between all that. The acting itch started mid high school when I was introduced to ‘poor theatre’ [minimal props and costumes- emphasis on performance] in drama class. My degree put that world to this side for a bit but as soon as I was done, I knew what my heart wanted to get back to.” The pandemic gave Shandu time to get back on to the music track: “A positive that came from Covid is that I started writing music again so I’m looking to make something out of that. Watch this space.”

The Unlikely Secret Agent- The Eleanor Kasrils Story, premiering at The Drama Factory, Strand, Western Cape, South Africa, June 202. Cast – left to right – Sanda Shandu, Gideon Lombard, Erika Marais, Paul DuToit and Nhlanhla Morgan Kutu. Supplied.

The Unlikely Secret Agent – The Eleanor Kasrils Story- premiere season- Drama Factory – June 2021

Cast: Paul du Toit, Gideon Lombard, Sanda Shandu, Ntlanhla Kutu and Erika Marais
Director: Paul du Toit
Producer: Erika Marais

Where and when: June 10-20 at The Drama Factory, 10 Comprop Sq, Henry Vos Close, Asla Business Park, Strand
Booking: Book securely online with credit card or call 073 215 2290

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