Who’s Upstairs: Penny Youngleson

Penny Youngleson is the director of Sillage, on at Alexander Upstairs from 20-25 Febraury 2017

Home town?

Tell us a little more about your show?
Sillage is a French word for the scent left behind when someone has walked past you – the trail of their perfume, cologne, soap, self. The play is about the relationship between a mother and daughter – and how they get to know each other by packing up their family home.

And what’s next on the cards for you?
Taking Sillage back to Grahamstown in June, and writing 4 new scripts in the next few months for a couple of projects and commissions.

And the project you’re dreaming of?
A 60-strong cast about the complexities of Chinese geostrategic and entrepreneurial investment in Africa. Kung Fu, Human Formation choreography and Pan-African politics are two things I have strong feelings about.

How did you get into theatre?
My mother worked at NAPAC at the Playhouse in Durban as a Costume designer and fabricator – so I grew up going to the theatre a lot. Her favourite story about me is when she took our family to Coppélia when I was about 3 years old…and after about 20 minutes I waited until it was dead quiet and then asked her “Mummy, when are they going to talk?!” at the top of my voice.
She was mortified.

Dinner with any two figures from history: who would you invite and what would you serve them?
Audre Lorde and Patrice Lumumba. Executive realness. I’m joking, I would serve them literally anything they wanted.

Favorite spot in Cape Town (besides Alexander Bar, obviously)?
I have an elderly Jack Russell called Guinevere, so anywhere she can sit next to me is a plus. We quite like The Blue Cafe. Because it’s a 3minute walk from my flat and that’s about as much as her hips can handle. And the coffee is nice. And they aren’t weird about her licking up strangers’ croissant crumbs. 

What excites you about theatre?
I can choose how things end.

What mistakes have you made and learned the most from?
Putting (all) of my own money into my shows. But that was also how I learnt everything I know. So I don’t regret it.

Who do you think people should be talking about?
All the arts journalists who have been retrenched. And all of the arts journalists who have to write for free if they want to be heard at all. Those of us who believe in a South Africa where theatre is an integral platform to elevate progress and creative entrepreneurship would be very remiss to negate the role seasoned journalists play in this.