With The Kingmakers, Louis Viljoen pens a work looking into the murky world of politics.
This is his debut project as the Fugard Theatre’s first playwright-in-residence.
Billed as a “pitch black political comedy”, the play follows “a group of opposition-party strategists as they attempt to place a neutral party member in contention for leadership. After an internal power struggle leaves them out in the cold and on the fringes of the party, they come up with a plan to shape a seemingly ambition-less, but well-respected politician into a leader. With the help of a rising commercial corporation seeking political clout and possible government contracts, the stage is set for a merciless power grab and perhaps a chance at revenge.”
“My interest in genre work has increased over the years and politics, or the ‘political thriller’ if you will, seemed like the perfect genre to explore greed, ambition, guilt – and a sort of inherent amorality,” he says.
Aside from notching the 2014 Fleur du Cap Best New Director Award for The Kingmakers, the Rosebank resident (“literally, on the wrong side of the tracks”) has also received critical acclaim for penning works such as Champ (2013) and The Pervert Laura (2015).
As to what drew him to pursuing a career in theatre, Louis says: “I began writing at a young age, mostly by devising plot-lines for my G.I. Joe adventures. Later, when I attended the National School of Arts in Johannesburg, the love of theatre solidified.
“Combining that,” he alughs, “with the fact that I was never academically gifted and that I’m no good at anything else, a career in theatre seemed to be the only thing suited for me.”
This decision does, however, come with its downsides.
“It’s always money,” he smiles, adding: “But I knew that coming into the business, so I guess it’s less of a challenge and more of an industry reality. The biggest challenge, I believe, to all theatre-makers, is the navigation of theatre management. The people who sit on top of the heap, telling others what can and can’t be done, have the uncanny knack of strangling the industry that props them up.
“Theatre-makers have to fight tooth and nail to stage work and so often the institutions within the theatre industry fail to support them, and in some cases, go out of their way to retard the evolution of theatre. The best way to combat this is relentlessness and unmerciful work that demands to be seen.”
* The Kingmakers runs at the Fugard Theatre, corner Caledon and Buitenkant streets, District Six, from Tuesdays to Saturdays, at 8pm, until Saturday March 19. Tickets cost from R130 to R150 and can be booked through Computicket or by calling 021 461 4554. As the production contains strong language, no under-16s are allowed.