Pro­duc­tion gal­lops to suc­cess

Business Day - - INSIGHTS -

THE artistry and mag­nif­i­cence of the 2014 pro­duc­tion of War Horse in SA has been com­pared to Wil­liam Ken­tridge’s The Magic Flute, which en­thralled lo­cal au­di­ences in 2007.

Just as Ken­tridge’s three­d­i­men­sional work of art left South Africans open-mouthed in awe, the “home­com­ing” of the global theatre phe­nom­e­non pup­peteered by the South African Hand­spring Pup­pet Com­pany about a horse called Joey ex­ceeded the ex­pec­ta­tions of lo­cal au­di­ences.

The lo­cal pro­duc­tion was the re­sult of wide-rang­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Pi­eter To­e­rien, Rand Mer­chant Bank (RMB), the South African Hand­spring Pup­pet Com­pany, the Royal Na­tional Theatre of Great Bri­tain, Tsogo Sun, Artscape, the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Theatre for Chil­dren and Young Peo­ple of South Africa (AS­SITEJ SA) and Tokara Wine Es­tate. These part­ner­ships were lauded last night when RMB won the Strate­gic Pro­ject Award and RMB, the Hand­spring Pup­pet Com­pany and the Hand­spring Trust re­ceived the Basa Chair­man’s Premier Award. The lat­ter award is made at the dis­cre­tion of the chair­man of Basa in recog­ni­tion of sus­tained and ex­tra­or­di­nary com­mit­ment to the arts in SA.

The re­la­tion­ship be­tween Basa, War Horse and RMB goes back sev­eral years. In 2011, Basa CEO Michelle Con­stant ap­proached RMB to spon­sor the guest ap­pear­ance of Joey’s friend, Topthorn, at that year’s Basa Awards. It was a show­stop­per and there­after RMB’s Carolynne Waterhouse told To­e­rien that if ever the full pro­duc­tion were to tour SA, RMB would like to be in­volved.

“Pi­eter had ac­cess to War Horse, not us,” says Waterhouse (who is these days some­times also re­ferred to as “Ms Wa­ter Horse”). “RMB suc­cess­fully brought the pro­duc­tion to SA be­cause of our part­ner­ship with him, his nerves of steel, his de­ter­mi­na­tion to bring Joey home to the av­er­age South African by mak­ing ticket prices af­ford­able, and huge amounts of energy gen­er­ated by him and ev­ery­one else in­volved in the col­lab­o­ra­tion.”

The suc­cess of War Horse in SA was not, how­ever, only about wow­ing pay­ing au­di­ences. The RMB Fund, which is RMB’s cor­po­rate so­cial in­vest­ment ve­hi­cle, de­vel­oped an ex­ten­sive so­cial de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme to sup­ple­ment the stag­ing of the event. One of the con­di­tions of the busi­ness spon­sor­ship was that the cor­po­rate so­cial in­vest­ment fund would in­te­grate its fo­cus on the arts and its net­work of part­ners. The ob­jec­tive was to make the pro­duc­tion as mean­ing­ful and far-reach­ing as pos­si­ble.

The RMB Fund part­nered with Tshiku­l­ulu So­cial In­vest­ments and AS­SITEJ SA to run an eight-month long pro­gramme. With in­put and par­tic­i­pa­tion from Na­tional Theatre fa­cil­i­ta­tors, the ini­tia­tive trained up a net­work of artists in ed­u­ca­tion me­di­a­tion of theatre per­for­mances. The pro­gramme was also de­signed to pro­mote the idea of theatre as an ed­u­ca­tional tool, strengthen the net­work of lo­cal prac­ti­tion­ers with com­mon prac­tice and know-how, and to leave a legacy of im­proved en­gage­ment with schools, and in­creased sus­tain­abil­ity for artists and com­pa­nies.

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