Tale dis­tils dram from drama

Mad­cap ad­ven­ture drops an­chor in tiny new theatre

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODTHEATRE - ROBYN CO­HEN

FOR MORE than two decades, Nicholas El­len­bo­gen and his com­pany, Theatre for Africa, have been stag­ing the mad­cap com­edy fran­chise Raiders at the National Arts Fes­ti­val in Gra­ham­stown.

The 24th edi­tion, Raiders: The Whisky Trader, is on un­til July 28 at the Rose­bank Theatre, a new 40- seater venue that opened on Wed­nes­day.

The Whisky Trader stars El­len­bo­gen and Ella Gabriel.

The Whisky Trader re­volves around the se­cret of mak­ing malt whisky and the ad­ven­tures of Char­lie Hep­burn who skedad­dles from ex­cise men in Scot­land and jumps on to a ship bound for Africa.

On a dark and stormy night, he ro­mances Fiona.

“Fiona brings whisky-mak­ing to the Eastern Cape in 1820,” says El­len­bo­gen.

“She is a fan­tas­tic woman who gets things done in the true swash­buck­ling style of a 19th-cen­tury heroine. The story links Scot­land and South Africa at the height of Em­pire, with all its greed and ad­ven­ture.”

Is he mak­ing this all up? Absolutely. Each Raiders is a lark and then some. El­len­bo­gen has been in ev­ery Raiders. He has been joined by his fam­ily – sons Luke and Matthew and wife Liz, as well as a roll call of top names such as David Kramer, Pa­trick Mo­fo­keng and Rob van Vu­uren.

For the se­ries, El­len­bo­gen and his team con­jure up props that make the ac­tion ridicu­lous. For ex­am­ple, an ice-cream cone with a sparkler may be used to con­jure an im­age of an ex­plo­sion.

Im­pend­ing dan­ger may be sig­ni­fied with a can of Doom in­sect spray and so on. In other Raiders, au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion has been key. The Raiders casts are small – and El­len­bo­gen adds char­ac­ters by invit­ing peo­ple from the au­di­ence to get in on the act.

El­len­bo­gen is chuffed about the Rose­bank Theatre, which is two build­ings away from the Alma Café. He is a vet­eran when it comes to build­ing small theatres and has phys­i­cally built the seats and “the whole she­bang” for the Olympia Bak­ery Theatre, the Kalk Bay Theatre, the Post Box in Muizen­berg, and Alexan­der McCall Smith’s No 1 Ladies’ Opera House – a tiny opera theatre in Botswana.

Raiders is only a tiny part of Theatre for Africa’s work. The com­pany is in­volved in de­vel­op­ment and youth theatre all over Africa.

Raiders: The Whisky Trader.

Af­ter the sea­son at the Rose­bank Theatre, The Whisky Trader will be go­ing to the Ed­in­burgh Fes­ti­val Fringe and will be on at the Mer­chants Hall from Au­gust 1 to 20.

South Africa is well rep­re­sented at the fes­ti­val – par­tic­u­larly on the Assem­bly plat­form – so if you are head­ing there, find de­tails at www.as­sem­blyfes­ti­val.com

● Book for The Whisky Trader at www.webtick­ets.co.za. Tick­ets cost R100.

co­henry@ne­tac­tive.co.za Twit­ter: @TheCapeRobyn

PIC­TURE: CHAN­TAL CHERRY

SWASH­BUCK­LING: Nicholas El­len­bo­gen and Ella Gabriel in

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