‘Orpheus in Africa’ star Sanda Shandu looks set for sparkling career
DAVID Kramer’s musical Orpheus in Africa is at the Fugard Theatre until January.
It tells the story of Orpheus McAdoo, the free-born son of a slave and a graduate from The Hampton Institute in Virginia, US. He was the first African-American impresario to perform in the Cape of Good Hope in the late 1890s, where he achieved unprecedented success for himself and his Virginia Jubilee Singers.
Boasting a cast of magnificent voices, beautiful period costumes with stage sets, and original songs by Kramer, the show charts the introduction of African-American spirituals and the beginning of ragtime to the colonies of Queen Victoria. Among the highly experienced cast is theatre newcomer Sanda Shandu, who I met backstage the other day for a chat.
This funky young guy caught my attention not only because he shines on stage in the role of Richard Collins, but because I read in the programme that he recently got his degree in economics from UCT, and that this is his professional acting debut. I wanted to find out more.
“Yes, I studied economics although even on graduation day I still didn’t know what was going on,” he laughed. “Demand and supply is as far as I got – I’ll supply what you demand.”
Shandu said he had been passionate about the arts since he was at school – playing piano, public speaking and drama were his cup of tea. The economics came into play as his parents wanted him to have a safety net. “It took a long time… I took the scenic route, five years instead of three.
“There were some times when I wasn’t enjoying it so I started MCing gigs here and there, shooting ads and films and some modelling – that was a surprise right there. Then I decided I had come that far I should complete the degree.”
It was while Shandu was working at Stardust – the dinner theatre venue where the staff entertains customers while serving tables – that Kramer discovered him a little over a year ago. “He came with a bunch of friends one night and I had the right shift. I had heard about him while doing drama in high school, but didn’t know much of his music – but I knew that Volkswagen ad,” he said.
“I was quite stunned that he liked what he saw. We met up about a week later. I was quite nervous to meet him but we had a nice fat, fat conversation over some coffee, he invited me to audition, and he continued liking what he saw.”
The number one reason Shandu thinks you should see the show is that it is based on fact.
“It is a part of our long history; you could be walking the streets Orpheus once walked right here in the middle of Cape Town so it touches on that and makes it real to South African audiences.
“The themes we dive into still ring true today. And we’ve got some great music. This is an original musical with a beautifully told story, born and bred in Mzansi, created right here. And there is amazing comedy.”
● Orpheus in Africa plays nightly during the week at 8pm, and Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm. Tickets are available through the Fugard Theatre box office on 021 461 4554 or www.computicket.com.
FUNKY: Sanda Shandu in Orpheus in Africa.