Who’s Upstairs: Mike van Graan

_DSC6546 (174 of 435)Mike van Graan is the author of Pay back the Curry, on at Alexander Upstairs from 20-21 June at 7PM, starring Daniel Richards and directed by Rob van Vuuren.

Home town?
Cape Town. Mostly. With a six-year stint in Durban in the nineties.

Tell us a little more about your show?
South Africa’s a pretty rough place at the moment, particularly on the political front. The show is a satire, so it allows for a degree of catharsis both for the audience and for me as the writer. It uses the device of many sketches and songs to make commentary on the kinds of themes that we either speak about passionately or scrupulously avoid at dinner time.

And what’s next on the cards for you?
Once this project is on the road, I’ll be completing a commission from a Norwegian theatre company to do a play about the theme of migration, the big international theme at the moment. After the July festival circuit, I head to Berlin for a three-month fellowship from the beginning of September.

And the project you’re dreaming of?
A play I wrote about three years ago – Elusive Spring – and which has never been staged. It’s about democracy on our continent as seen through the life and work of a journalist and a theatre-maker, but its relatively large cast of 8 has made it financially unattractive. I would like it to be done and tour all over Africa!

How did you get into theatre(or music/burlesque/magic/etc)?
As a “person of colour” during the apartheid era, I had to apply for a permit to get into UCT. To get a permit, one had to do a subject not offered at the university the Bothas of the world had created to serve their separate development agenda (in my case, it was UWC). So, I did drama as my permit subject….

Dinner with any two figures from history: who would you invite and what would you serve them?
Actually, I quite like the idea which I realised in a play a couple of years back of Steve Biko and Neil Aggett, both of whom died in police detention, returning to South Africa to see if their sacrifices had been worth it. As for the menu, it would have to be sushi and/or curry.

Favorite spot in Cape Town (besides Alexander Bar, obviously)?
I love the sea, so the Sea Point promenade and/or Muizenburg surfers corner are regular hangouts for me.

What excites you about theatre (or music/burlesque/magic/etc)?
That one can – still – say and explore things through the form that would be unthinkable in most other forms (including art forms). It’s like an intellectual liberated zone, a place for freedom of thought and expression that I wish would be used more!

What mistakes have you made and learned the most from?
Trying to make a living from being engaged in theatre on a full-time basis. I still bear the scars.

Who do you think people should be talking about?
Creatively, I think Play Back the Curry! will showcase just how talented Daniel Richards is; amazingly versatile, an intelligent actor, beautiful singing voice, moves incredibly well and a very modest, warm human being.

As for young movers and shakers in the industry, I think the work that people like Mandisi Sindo and Sisa Makaula are doing in Khayelitsha and Delft respectively, developing theatre there, taking theatre to people through their venues, just doing it, is truly inspirational and laudable. They deserve all the support that the industry can give them! They show how much can be done with so little, if only there is vision, passion and will.