GREC FESTIVAL DE BARCELONA 2021
INTERVIEW

Junior Mthombeni
Dear Winnie
14/7 - 20:30 & 15/7 - 20:30 

teatre lliure montjuïc
barcelona.cat/grec/dear-winnie
unnamed.gif

An homage to the fighting spirit of Winnie Mandela, using music, words and languages in a great multidisciplinary show that speaks to us of resistance, feminism and anti-racism.

Hello Junior, thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been keeping during these odd Covid times?

For me, it went well. I can handle the silence well.

I'm not talking about the financial and the lack of playing in front of an audience. Fortunately, we could still create a lot as a group. The most painful thing for us "Dear Winnie's" is that we had planned a tour from Brazil to South Africa and several European cities. 

 

Even though the outlook seemed bleak have you still been able to find some new creative inspiration?

Fortunately, it does. Soon we will premiere a piece around Tupac Shakur called "who's Tupac" (September 10).

We're still working on a monologue I'm bringing around identity. This will come out November 14. In the meantime, all 3 of us have our own projects.  This is to say that it is busy.

How did this unique collaboration between you come about?

I already worked with Fikry in another company. (sincollectief) and I met Cesar through Michael De Cock and together we made a mega production called Hannibal. In our previous company "Sin Collective" Cesar made the music for us and we understood each other immediately both creatively and humanly. 

 

The work Jr.cE.sA.r is creating is ushering in a really profound moment in Flemish theatre, what do you think it is about your work that is connecting with audiences so much?

The themes we address reflect the spirit of the times.

From Syria fighters to Black consciousness. All this elevated to an artform where we use word, dance, music, and installations. Our pieces are always an intense experience for us, players and audience alike. We are for reel! 

Has your approach to your shows changed much since your debut production?

We are getting better and more intense at expressing our language. We feel that we are only in the beginning of our creative volcanic eruption.

Congratulations on bringing Dear Winnie to Grec Festival in Barcelona, how does it feel to be bringing this show to Catalonia?

Thank you, we are really happy that we can play at this fantastic festival. It's also our first performance abroad after the whole corona affair. So you'll get our full energy and enthusiasm, and it will also be exciting because of the corona, as one of our main actresses will be replaced by two other fantastic actresses. Winnie and identity is an important theme I think this also applies to Catalonia.

What inspired you to create Dear Winnie, has this always been a story you wanted to share?

Fikry and Cesar have always encouraged me to tell this story. I found it difficult to create something around South Africa I felt the hot breath of my father and the community blowing into my neck. The big inspiration was my father's letter to Winnie to help him.

Because of the personal narrative of Dear Winnie did you have any apprehensions about bringing this story to the stage?

Not at all, these are stories that need to be told.

What Fikry has done is to use not so much the personal story of the players but their spirit and timbre. This strength and power also applies to me as it is not just the personal story of my father that is written down but his spirit is in the story.

What have been the biggest challenges you faced bringing Dear Winnie to the stage?

How to bring the story, music and movement of such an amazing woman into a 2-hour performance. "Dear winnie" is a life and not a performance. This was the challenge. The key lay with the 9 women now on stage...

They are the power and the life.

"I hope that the people who know Winnie and get a much more nuanced view of her."

© Reyer Boxem

How important are creative partnerships like KVS for theatremakers to realise their visions?

KVS takes care of a lot for us, so we can purely focus on the creative. Someone like Gerardo Salinas (KVS) our dramaturg (and much more) is actually part of our team. All this makes us much stronger. The good thing about the KVS is that it allows room to grow and experiment. I think KVS and Jr.cE.sA.r is a win win situation.

You co-directed L’Homme de La Mancha with KVS artistic director Michael De Cock what was that experience like and is it something you're looking forward to doing again?

We enjoy working together and had said after L'homme de la Mancha to do this again. For Michael and myself it was a challenge to catapult a traditional musical with a rich history into the here and now.

The good thing about Michael is that I understand his language and vice versa. So on this occasion we are going to work together again but our next project is going to be so fantastic that I have to shut up about it!

Do you have any advice or tips for any emerging playwright, director or musical director?

Find your own language, your own voice.....Dare to fail, be curious. Turn the world upside down. Shins are there to stomp against, do it with love.

Love what you do……

And finally, what do you hope audiences at Grec will take away from Dear Winnie?

I hope that the people who know Winnie and get a much more nuanced view of her. I hope people go out with the idea that they can change the world.

I hope we give hope...