Theatre: World premiere of The Unlikely Secret Agent – The Eleanor Kasrils Story- June 2021, at The Drama Factory, Western Cape

What: The Unlikely Secret Agent – The Eleanor Kasrils Story When: June 10-20, 2021 Where: The Drama Factory, 10 Comprop Sq, Henry Vos Close, Asla Business Park, Strand, Western Cape Cast: Paul du Toit, Gideon Lombard, Sanda Shandu, Ntlanhla Kutu and Erika Marais Director: Paul du Toit Producer: Erika Marais Booking: Book securely online with credit orcall 073 215 2290   Parking: Yes – on-site    

During the time of Covid, year two of lockdown, making theatre requires extreme resilience and vision. With her signature grit and determination, Cape Town theatre maker Erika Marais has gone about producing a new play, The Unlikely Secret Agent – The Eleanor Kasrils Story and it is being staged next month – June 10-20 – at The Drama Factory in the Strand (about 40 minutes from Cape Town CBD – 48.2km on the N2). Yes, it is HAPPENING. From page to stage, now in Covid. Drum roll, please. Marais is performing in the play which also features Paul du Toit, Gideon Lombard, Sanda Shandu and Ntlanhla Kutu. Du Toit has adapted and based the play on the award winning book of the same name, by Ronnie Kasrils. Marais plays Eleanor Kasrils and Du Toit plays Ronnie Kasrils.

This is not a festival production. That means that there is no festival backing. It is the culmination of the vision of Marais –imaging a book for the stage – and her collaboration with Paul du Toit in writing the script. Seats are limited because of lockdown and sold out means sold out, during Covid. One cannot simply add in an extra chair. One house is already sold out. Strict adherence to safety protocols will be in place. Do not miss the opportunity to see a world premiere at an independent theatre. Be present and be drawn into this true story about “bravery and hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.” Erika has gathered a brilliant cast. Gideon Lombard star of theatre and TV (includes Kyknet’s Suidooster Treknet; Stressed to KillOrpheus in Africa). Sanda Shandu’s CV includes Netflix’s The Kissing Booth and SA’s Skemerdans. The award winning du Toit  has excelled across theatre genres (musical theatre, drama, comedy) and in film. Marais has made her mark in plays like Your Perfect Life (which won an Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival). Ntlanhla Kutu is making his professional theatre debut.

More to follow about this new play. In the meanwhile, here is the info as supplied. The setting for the book 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.” In researching her character, Marais shared “coffee, cake and memories” with Kasrils last year [2020]. It was important to her to connect with Kasrils, in person, to flesh out Eleanor. The meeting came after months of talking on the phone, zoom, WhatsApp and e-mail. She says: “Meeting with him in person and having him share Eleanor’s inner life with me is proving to be invaluable in my preparation to portray Eleanor truthfully and to do justice to her character.” Paul Du Toit: “This is one of those South African stories that simply must be told. A story of sacrifice from someone who, though she would never consider herself one, is nothing short of a national hero. A story that reminds us of just how much these heroes were prepared to risk fighting oppression in our country. The plot focusses on Eleanor, an unassuming, young single mother who is arrested in 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.  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.” Ronnie Kasrils: “I am thrilled that the dramatic story of a young woman’s courageous battle with the South African security police in the 1960s, is coming to the stage.  This is a brilliant script about what led a single mother to join Umkhonto we Sizwe, and how she managed to defeat her interrogators. Erika Marais has captured Eleanor, my girlfriend at the time, quite brilliantly. You will question yourself – could you have stood up against apartheid as this slender young woman did.“

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Gideon Lombard and Paul du Toit, rehearsing, The Unlikely Secret Agent – The Eleanor Kasrils Story. The world premiere is from June 10-20, 2021, at The Drama Factory, Strand, Western Cape.

Featured image – Salene Bekker (stage manager) with Sanda Shandu. Supplied image. Promoted post.