Who’s Upstairs: Pieter van Zyl

Pieter per­form­ers The Woman with the Baby on her Back, at Alexan­der Upstairs 27 April – 9 May.

pietervanzyl01Home town?
Good old Bellville

Tell us a little more about ‘The woman with a baby on her back’?
It is a one man performance, a stage adaptation of Athol Fugard’s short story ‘To whom it must concern’, directed by Thomas Leabhart. I recently returned to the Pomona College, California, where I studied years ago, to collaborate with Prof Leabhart on this project. The play focuses on a train driver from the Karoo, Roelf Visagie and the life changing impact it has on him when a woman with a baby on her back jumps in front of the train he is driving.

What’s the next project?
To revisit a lecture-performance about mime corporel entitled ‘Early Works – a love story.’ Mime corporel is a movement-based technique for actors, based on the research of the French theatre master Etienne Decroux. I studied this art form in London, Paris and California and I continue to practice it. I also love traditional theatre and that’s why I do projects such as ‘The woman with a baby on her back.’

And the one you’re dreaming of?
A play/creation in which music and mime corporel will meet and exist together.

How did you get into theatre?
The longing has always been there but I also showed musical talent at an early age. It took me a long time to realize it’s possible to work as an actor without sacrificing your integrity as a musician. My first hesitant step was to enroll at the ADK many years ago, where I was fortunate to study with Babs Laker. After that I continued learning mainly through studying mime corporel.

Dinner with any two figures from history: who would you invite and what would you serve them?
Probably someone like Charlie Chaplin whose work was so original, rich and humane; and Wanda Landowska, who performed Bach on a harpsichord to audiences all over the world. I will serve simple, wonderful food: breads that take days to prepare, hearty soup and a fresh salad with a beautiful dressing; for desert my mom’s ‘souskluitjies.’

Favorite spot in Cape Town (besides Alexander Bar, obviously)?
Labia Film Theatre. I can’t imagine Cape Town without it.

What excites you about theatre?
I love it when I sense a connection with past generations, despite the fact that there might also be a new, fresh angle. This connection can be made in many ways: through the material, through work ethic or a moral idea.

What mistakes have you made and learned the most from?
Perhaps too many to mention here. The learning curve is definitely towards greater simplicity and that kind of lightness that also has roots.

Who do you think people should be talking about?
They should be talking about many different people who share their experiences and good hearts in their own, unique ways