‘Or­pheus in Africa’ star Sanda Shandu looks set for sparkling ca­reer

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

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.

PIC­TURE: JESSE KRAMER

FUNKY: Sanda Shandu in Or­pheus in Africa.

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