Durban actor RORY BOOTH, whose many stage roles include Donkey in Shrek The Musical and the title role in Puss in Boots, is now the star of Ashwin and Shantal Singh’s one-man play, Reoca Light, to be staged at Durban’s Playhouse Loft from April 5 to 8, before embarking on a national and international tour. The play celebrates the human spirit and nods to unsung heroes in contemporary South Africa, as well as those from the recent and distant past. The play, co-directed by Ashwin Singh and Ralph Lawson, was the runner-up in the 2012 Pansa Play Reading Festival. Booking is at Computicket outlets. BILLY SUTER asks Rory 20 questions.
WHAT, BRIEFLY, IS ‘REOCA LIGHT’ ABOUT – AND WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO PEOPLE TO ENCOURAGE THEM TO SEE IT?
Reoca Light is about the community of Reoca and a young man named Sunil Mohan, who presides over the closure of his parents’ convenience store after a series of robberies.
People should book their seats as ‘South African Indian’ plays, specifically solo performances, are few and far between. That said, the production boasts a script jam-packed with comedy, drama and very interesting, relatable characters.
Reoca light is a theatre experience that utilises various different acting styles and techniques to tell the story. It is not a random ‘you’re coming here to laugh’ production – you’re coming to watch an Indian family’s story of ‘homecoming’ and ‘self-truth’ against the backdrop of South Africa’s colourful political history The play encourages those who watch it to be active in the search of their own ‘light’.
EXPLAIN THE SHOW TITLE AND ITS RELEVANCE.
The production is set in a suburb called Reoca. Sunil’s father owns a shop called Mohan’s Superette which becomes the ‘light of Reoca’ – a common meeting place where people shared experiences and socialised. The Superette becomes the glue that keeps the community together and united.
THE PLAY IS WRITTEN BY ASHWIN SINGH – HOW OFTEN HAVE YOU AND HE WORKED TOGETHER?
Ashwin and I first worked together when we performed in Ronnie Govender’s Thunsil. My first role in one of Ashwin’s productions, which also marked my first performance in a straight play, was in Spice and Stuff. That scored me a Durban Theatre Award nomination for best supporting actor in a drama.
A highlight of my partnership with Ashwin was performing in Popcom, a sketch-based comedy production which ran to full houses at the Playhouse, Suncoast Casino and Durban’s old Catalina Theatre.
‘REOCA LIGHT’ WAS THE RUNNER-UP (IN THE SOLO AND TWO-HANDER CATEGORY) IN THE 2012 PANSA PLAY READING FESTIVAL. HOW AND WHEN DID YOU COME ON BOARD WITH THE PROJECT?
Ashwin approached me with Reoca Light a while ago, but at that time of my life I felt I wasn’t ready to perform in a one-hander. When I was ready to perform the piece, logistics and our busy schedules did not allow for it to happen. We’re both pretty chuffed that the stars have finally aligned!
HOW MANY ROLES DO YOU PLAY IN THE STAGE WORK – WHAT DO YOU FIND MOST INTERESTING/CHALLENGING ABOUT THIS PLAY?
I play some 15 characters in the show, five of which are prominent drivers of the story. There’s the main storyteller Sunil, his father Mohan, Uncle Johnny the Butcher, Themba the Gardener, and Sunil’s great, great grandfather, Areendum.
The challenge I face with this piece is to be careful not to caricature the main characters. It must be a true and honest representation of who these people really are.
As an actor, I need to be careful not to cross the line of taking the character too far. Not too much… just enough.
RALPH LAWSON AND ASHWIN SINGH DIRECT – WHY TWO DIRECTORS, AND WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF THIS, FOR YOU?
We seldom get the opportunity, as actors, to hear what the playwright has to say, regarding acting choices and a director’s vision. The benefit is to always have the writer’s interpretation of the script ‘on tap’.
TELL ME MORE ABOUT TOURING PLANS AFTER THE DURBAN SEASON.
The show will tour to India and the UK next year. Before the international tour, we are looking at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, and a tour around the country.
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN INVOLVED WITH MOST RECENTLY, AND WHAT NEXT FOR YOU AFTER ‘REOCA LIGHT’?
I have been promoting my first film, that I co-wrote with Jayan Moodley. It’s Keeping Up With The Kandasamys, currently in cinemas nationwide. I also act in it. After Reoca Light, I will release a new studio single across all music platforms.
FOLKS WHO SAW YOUR PICTURE ON THE BACK OF THE KICKSTART PANTO PROGRAMME IN DECEMBER, TEASING THE 2017 PANTO, ‘SINBAD THE SAILOR’, MAY BE DISAPPOINTED TO HEAR YOU WILL NOT FILL THE TITLE ROLE NOW. LYLE BUXTON HAS BEEN NAMED AS THE STAR. CAN YOU EXPLAIN?
That picture was used prior to having agreed on a contract.
HOW IS YOUR RECORDING CAREER GOING… AND HOW MANY RECORDINGS TO DATE? ALSO, HOW HAVE THEY FARED?
Exceptionally well. I’m very grateful about the new 90/10 rule on radio stations. Local, independent artists are starting to thrive and blossom.
I have had six singles that have done well over the years, both in film and on radio. I’m excited about my upcoming single, Feel It, as it is my first single in the house genre.
WHAT FIVE WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOU?
Passionate. Driven. Loving. Truthful. Humble.
WHAT ARE FIVE THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF (HOWEVER TRIVIAL) THAT PEOPLE ARE UNLIKELY TO KNOW?
I love incense. I have double-jointed thumbs. I eat tuna out the can. Sometimes I swim at 5am in the tidal pool on the Bluff. I am a horror-movie addict.
YOUR MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT ON STAGE?
I fell on my back once during a supper show at Durban’s Upper Deck at Ushaka Marine World.
HOBBIES, PASTIMES AND FAVOURITE THINGS?
Swimming in the tidal pool at Anstey’s Beach. I also love playing video games – but I like happy, retro games like Mario Brothers or Looney Tunes. I am also a fan of the adult colouring-book thing (I’ve been using kiddy colouring books all this time).
WHAT ARE YOUR FEARS AND PHOBIAS ?
Sometimes I fear failure – but I’ve never failed. Perhaps I need to fail at something to get over it? I don’t have phobias.
TWO HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR CAREER?
Acting in the epic White Gold film. We told the story of how Indians came to South Africa. It was shot in India and I met some of soul mates in life during that film.
Also, Keeping up with the Kandasamys. It’s been four years in the making. I co-wrote the film with Kayan Moodley and it has been getting phenomenal reviews around the country.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE COLOUR, MEAL, BAND, ALBUM, TV SHOW AND MOVIE?
Blue; Linguine Di Casa at Spiga D’Ora; Chainsmokers and Coldplay; too many albums to mention; Big Bang Theory and The Simpsons; and Nacho Libre.
WHAT IS THE WORST TROUBLE YOU HAVE EVER BEEN IN? PLEASE ELABORATE.
Sheesh… I think I need to be a bad boy to get some trouble stories. The only trouble I have been in was for being late at the stage door during a show.
FIVE OF YOUR ALL-TIME FAVOURITE SONGS?
I’m a singer/ musician. I have way too many!
WHAT FIVE THINGS WOULD YOU LIST UNDER ‘SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE’?
Prawns, melodies, puppies, gym and dance.
WHAT IS THE MOST PAINFUL THING YOU HAVE ENDURED?
Last year, I was casting for extras for Keeping Up With The Kandasamys at Chatsworth Centre. My gran was excited to be part of it so she came all dressed up and took her picture with us. A few minutes later she had fallen on an escalator after blacking out, and passed away. I got to her too late.