Tag Archives: acting

The Act of Life

“You can’t be serious?” Kleinpiet stares at the article, shocked to the core. He’s always liked the actress, but this is a bit too much. Gertruida found this article on the Internet, outlining allegations that have not been contested or denied…

“I’m afraid you’ll have to adjust your opinion about international politics – and actors. It isn’t just about individuals trying to do well – it’s also about image and positioning.”

charlize

Gertruida gets up to walk to the window. It is a beautiful day in the Kalahari, with the slightest of hints of clouds on the horizon. At least here, she thinks, things remain fairly constant.

“It has become fashionable for actors to play the political game. Reagan became president, remember? Italy had Gina Lollobrigida, America boasts with Schwarzenegger, Clooney and Clint Eastwood , and now we’ve got our own Oscar-winning contribution to international affairs.”

“But it’s not only actors, Gertruida. I think one must consider musicians as well.” Fanny sighs as she remembers the impact John Lennon had on her life.

“That’s true. You must understand that some performers become icons. Their fame rests not only on what they do on the big screen or on stage, but it also involves their private lives. In fact, their private lives are responsible for millions and millions of printed words in magazines and newspapers every year – so it isn’t so private anymore.

“So, as soon as your performance elevates you above the level of mediocrity and people start noticing you, you become the object of close scrutiny. People want to know what sets you apart from the rest. That is the root of fame and fame breeds more curiosity. And that, my friends, is where the real acting starts.

“Today, the big money goes to entertainers. It doesn’t matter if you play golf, tennis, rugby, or the guitar. The bored masses of the world will fork out hard-earned money to be entertained, which generates more TV coverage, more sponsorships and more reports in the tabloids. Money, money, money…”

Boggel drums an irritated finger on the counter top. “Aren’t actors supposed to be intelligent?”

“Of course! But there is something else. Consider the ability to play different roles convincingly enough to win an Oscar. You have to pretend to be someone else with so much conviction, that you adopt another personality. In one movie you play the hero. In the next you’re a serial killer.

“Now, what does that tell you? To me it means that a great actor must have fragments of these personality types stashed away inside their minds. After all, you can’t portray a certain trait if you haven’t got it. Look at Vetfaan, or Oudoom: they can’t act even if you offered to pick up the tab for a month’s drink. They are what they are – nothing more and nothing less. But actors! They’re more than just a single individual.”

“Like politicians?” Precilla’s brow shoots up: the penny just dropped.

“Right you are. Politicians are the best actors in the world, my dear. Their speeches are scripts written by spindoctors and they are more diligent in their rehearsals than the most dedicated actor. Actors can fall back on editing, politicians do it live. Do you think Uncle Jacob writes his own speeches? Or that he addresses an audience without proper coaching beforehand? ”

“Okay, Gertruida, I get it. They all act. It’s fake.” Kleinpiet still stares at the newspaper clipping. “But why would Charlize support somebody like Malema, who said the honeymoon for whites in South Africa is over? Or talk to our president who sings about killing the Boers?”

Gertruida shakes her head. “It isn’t a new thing at all, Kleinpiet. Remember old Shakespeare?All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts? 

“It’s about ego and power. If you can name five politicians who genuinely serve the people who’ve elected them, I’d be surprised. How many actors can you think of who remained true to themselves? Yes, there are more actors than politicians. And yes, you’ll find some actors involved in community service and upliftment – in South Africa we have quite a few. But once international fame comes knocking at your door, it comes with a price.

“So why would Charlize support a dubious cause? Why would she throw money at a corrupt system? After all, she must have known she’d lose the support of a few of her home-town admirers. But…it’s about posturing and politics. As much as one must admire her work as UN envoy to raise awareness of AIDS; and as wonderful as her foundation to improve life in Africa may be, one must never forget one thing: it takes one bad apple to spoil the crate.”

Kleinpiet tears the clipping into small pieces before dropping it in the ashtray. He still doesn’t understand what Gertruida is trying to say – Charlize has been somebody he really, really liked. Now she’s just another actress on the big stage of Life, a good one at that; but one who is playing out a role, saying memorised words and miming rehearsed actions.

Is she for real?

“Gimme another beer,” his voice is tired. “If that article is genuine, I have to think about this. It feels as if I’m trapped in a Hollywood studio where everything is make-believe.”

“That, Kleinpiet, is the illusion we all have to live with.” Gertruida reaches out to take the bottle from Boggel. Smiling triumphantly, she takes a swig. “What you see isn’t what you get…”

It’s a Barnum and Bailey world
Just as phony as it can be
But it wouldn’t be make-believe
If you believed in me

Lucy’s Voice in the Leading Role

She walks into Boggel’s Place, ramrod-straight (back), suitably curved (sides and front) and wearing a seductive smile.

“Hi, guys. What does a girl do for a drink around here?”

Vetfaan almost upsets his beer when he turns to look at her. Wearing her red hair in a stylish bob, and with the leaf-green eyes and inviting lips, she certainly is something to stare at. The rib-knit waistband allows her skirt to flare out from the hips, accentuating the deeply tanned and muscular legs. She’s wearing a loose-fitting cotton blouse with an embroidered Chinese-style collar, complementing the gentle curve of the elegant neck. What strikes Vetfaan most, is the impish sparkle in her eyes when she meets his gaze.

“Hello, big man, you like what you see?”

Vetfaan blushes to a beetroot red while he tries to think of something to say. Boggel comes to his rescue by serving some beers.

“He’s not well. Severe laryngitis, the doctor said. Highly contagious; but as long as he keeps on drinking, the germs can’t get out. So we’re safe.”

She wrinkles her nose in mock disgust and sits down carefully.  Despite her caution, the sight of a goodly piece of upper thigh makes Vetfaan gulp down his beer.

“You’re new around here, Miss…” Boggel dangles the sentence in the air.

“I’m Lucy. Lucy Lombaard.” She smiles coyly as Boggel introduces himself and Vetfaan.

Boggel has known two Lucys in his life. Lucy Bredenkamp was one of the matrons in the orphanage – a huge woman with massive hands and a short temper. The other Lucy had the surname of Botha, a girl from Brakpan with busy hips and naughty eyes. Now, he decides, the stalemate is over: there are more fun Lucys than grumpy Lucys in the world.

“And what brings you to our little town, Lucy?”

Her eyes cloud over as she steals a quick look over her shoulder.

“My boyfriend.” Her voice drops to a whisper. “He won’t leave me alone. I told him a million times it’s over, but he suddenly develops this selective deafness and keeps on following me everywhere. He’s about as big as mister Laryngitis over here, but not that old. And a bit more handsome, if I may say so. He’s one of those cage-fighters, you see? I think they knocked him out too many times. He’s not quite normal.”

“Well, you mustn’t think Vetfaan is over the hill. He actually managed to catch an international criminal not so long ago. Put up quite a fight. The other chap had a gun, but that didn’t stop him.” Boggel giggles behind his hand as Vetfaan goes red again. “So your ex is on his way here, is he?”

“No. That’s why I came here. Back of the woods. As far away from civilisation as I can be. I’ll need a place to stay for a few days. Where’s the hotel? I’ll need a suite with a lounge. They must have a laundry service. And a manicure. And they must have a vegetarian menu – I can’t stand what they do to the poor animals. All that blood…ugh!”

The two men have some difficulty to keep their faces straight.

“Well, Lucy, I have good news and bad news. The good news is we can find somewhere for you to stay. Maybe we can get somebody to do your laundry. But the nearest hotel is at the Oasis Casino in Upington, and even there you’d be lucky to find a nail clipper. In Rolbos we eat meat and do our own nails.”

Only some girls manage to pout properly. It is done by the subtle pursing of lips and a corresponding narrowing of the eyes. Too much, and they look as if they invite a kiss. Too little, and it is totally ineffective. Lucy gives an excellent demonstration of a genuine, organic, free-range pout. Even the hurt look in the eyes seems genuine.

“Aw…damn! You serious?” She sniffs loudly. “I-I can’t go to Upington. Too many people. They’ll recognise me.”

“Oh.” Boggel stands back to look at her intently. “Are you famous or something?”

This time the pout is more pronounced, the pained expression even more so. “You-you don’t know who I am? Really?”

“I’m sorry. We live an isolated life here. Once a week we get The Upington Post, and radio reception is sketchy. No television. And we rarely have celebrities around, except if you take the pole-dancer from Prieska –she visited us a year ago.”

This time, Lucy blushes.

“It’s just…well, everywhere people stop and ask for my autograph, you see. Everywhere. Even in Vosburg, just the other day, an old omie asked if he can give me a hug.” She pats her hair in place and inspects her reflection in the mirror behind the shelves. “I play the role of Sandy in Sewende Laan.” Seeing the blank stares, she explains. “It’s a soapy.” More blank stares. “Oh for goodness’ sakes! It’s a television show. On every night. Everybody watches it.” She sighs. “Except you guys in this one-horse town, I suppose.”

She doesn’t tell them about the director, shouting at her to get her ‘voice’. He said it is important. I she doesn’t do it, she’ll never land the big one…

“Listen, miss, if you want to stay, I can help.” Vetfaan has recovered enough to have the presence of mind to talk with a hoarse voice. “It’s not much. A rondawel behind my house on the farm. The other option is to ask Oudoom and Mevrou to put you up in the parsonage. Not much else available, I’m afraid.”

“A dominee? In a parsonage?” Her brow shoots up in horror, widening her eyes so the white shows all round the green irises. “My dead body! I tell you! No way!”

Over the next hour, the townsfolk trickle in. The news of a TV star wanting to hide in Rolbos spreads quickly and everybody wants to have a look. Gertruida, of course, is the only one who recognises Lucy, something that puts a bit of composure back in the disgruntled redhead. By now, the late-afternoon glow isn’t restricted o the last rays of sunlight through the window; several rounds of Cactus has seen to that. Lucy is regaling the crowd with stories about her career and the role she is playing.

Gertruida says anybody can act if they have to play themselves, and it is most probably true in Lucy’s case. Sandy – her role – is apparently a young lady with an insatiable appetite for high living and male attention. Gertruida sees the way even Servaas is ogling the girl and shakes her head.  When men become older, she decides, it is in an inverse relationship to their judgement. As the one goes up, the other goes down.

Eventually, Vetfaan gets up; and still using his rasping voice, announces that he’s off to bed. When he greets the crowd, Lucy jumps up.

“What about me?”

He shrugs. “I didn’t think you’d want to stay on a farm, young lady. No electricity. No manicure. No laundry. No vegetarian menu. It is, I must say, not exactly a place for a celebrity to stay.”

She does the pout-thing again and turns to the rest. “Is there anywhere else I can stay? Anybody?”

Oudoom is at the point of saying something, but Mevrou pumps him a solid one in the ribs. Gertruida still has Judge writing away in her library. Servaas has not had his blood pressure pills for two days. And Precilla shoots a warning glance in Kleinpiet’s direction, telling him silently of dire consequences if he should volunteer.  With a big grin, Boggel shakes his head.

And so it happens that Vetfaan has to play host to the whims of Lucy, the girl who plays an minor role on the set of a popular television series.  She- of course – is overjoyed. When she drove into town, she noticed the absence of television aerials. Not a single building had a dish mounted on a wall or a roof. Here, at last, she can act out the role of Sandy, the heroine of every household and the object of every man’s desire. She can find her voice here by being Sandy, the desarable wench…

But she won’t stay long. Vetfaan is too much of a gentleman (old enough to know trouble when he sees it) to take advantage of the young lady. And, as is so often the case, the glamour of entertaining a celebrity (especially a would-be one), soon wears off.

Vetfaan sits her down after that first morning, and delivers a long and sincere speech about life and what it’s all about. “Some things in life are real. Some things are not. To be a good actor, you must be able to tell the difference. And then you have to decide where you belong. That’s your voice. That’s where you belong…”

To her credit: she listened attentively. Asked a few questions. Got straight answers.

By the second day, Vetfaan tells her to clean up the mess in her room. That evening, she has to wash dishes. The day after will see her hanging washing on the clothesline and by day four, she’s enjoying the leg of lamb Vetfaan baked in the old Dover stove.

“Hey, this is delicious!” Without her makeup and dressed in one of Vetfaan’s old shirts over baggy jeans, she looks quite different to Sandy, the make-believe TV-star she created in her mind. She holds out her plate. “Please sir, may I have some more?”

They laugh at that. It’s an easy laugh. A genuine laugh. The laugh of pure enjoyment actors never seem to manage quite perfectly on screen or stage.

When they hold a farewell party for her, everybody is in Boggel’s Place to say goodbye.

“I’ll miss you guys,” she says. The tears are real.

“Funny what a few days on a farm can do for a city-girl like that.” Kleinpiet watches as her car leaves a line of dust on the road to Grootdrink.

“It’s a problem with these actors,” Gertruida says, “they become bigger than the role they play. It’s not healthy.”

For Lucy, the visit was a reality check. Two days later she walks into the studio to talk to the director.  She tells him she will not be available as an extra any more. When he asks her what she will do now, she tells him it’s none of his business. She has, she tells him, found her voice.

***

Lucy’s Grill is a small and quaint little restaurant in one of our main tourist towns on the Wine Route. You have to book a few weeks in advance to enjoy the privilege of the main course – the leg of lamb, slowly baked in an old coal stove.

On rare evenings, when she’s not busy in the kitchen, she entertains her guests by being Sandy, the acting extra who got a leading role in real life. That’s when everybody agrees: she should have acted on a bigger stage.

And that – after all – is what finding your voice is all about.

Round on the House

  “Mar-ga-ret Hoog-en-boez-em.” She pronounces her surname as seven separate words as if to accentuate the importance of remembering them. “Mizz,” she adds, as if to avoid confusion. Only the slightest hint of a cold smile accompanies the performance.

Boggel watches as she takes out a thin, black cheroot; lights it and scouts around for an ashtray.

“This is a no smoking zone, Mizz Hoog-en-boez-em; but we’ll make an exception for this once only.” Business has been slow – he doesn’t want to chase away cstomers..

“I knew a Katzenellenbogen once,” Vetfaan says. “Big chap. I don’t suppose he’s family, is he?”

Vetfaan believes a lame opening is better than no opening, so he puts on his best smile. Truth be told: this woman is worth a second glance. She does her surname proud. One could describe the rest of her as ‘compact’ of ‘well proportioned’ or ‘pleasing to the eye’; all of which contain elements of truth; as she far outstrips the usual ‘attractive’ label. However, there are the chilly gaze, the cold smile and the syllable-speak that should have warned Vetfaan off.

She turns to give him a speculative once-over, like Kleinpiet does when he attends an auction to buy a new ram. It isn’t just a question of determining the looks of such a sheep – you must be able to visualise his performance, his stamina and his abilities as well. He calls it his holistic approach, something which surprised Gertruida, who thought holism was invented by Jan Smuts.

Boggel sees the holistic glance. He knows trouble when he sees it, too.

“Excuse me, Mizz…what would you like to drink?”

“Whatever this kind gentleman offers me, I suppose.”  She holds Vetfaan’s gaze as she speaks, while he has trouble keeping his eyes away from the straining blouse. Resting his chin on his palm, he splutters and circles a finger in the air.

“Whatever, Boggel. And a round on the house, as well.”

This is the sentence that convinces Boggel of Vetfaan’s temporary insanity. You don’t – DON’T EVER – say things like that in Boggel’s Place. The problem has been debated many times in the past, and every time the guy who made the statement, came up short. The issue at the centre of the argument involves the definitions of two words. What, after all, constitutes a ‘round’ and then, more importantly: what is meant by “house”.

In Rolbos a round is only finished when the last man remains standing – like in old-fashioned boxing. To offer a round to somebody, is like throwing down the gauntlet – it is disrespectful to refuse or go home too early. A round – in Rolbos – may be seen as a shift, a session, or period of time; as opposed to the more civilised single serving of several singles.

.

And then, there is the thorny issue with the definition of ‘house’. Does the word only imply those present at the time of the offer, or does it also involve late-comers? Of course, Rolbos accepts ‘house’ in the broadest sense of the word. People have been known to race in from Grootdrink, once the news of a ‘round’ on the ‘house’ had spread.

Boggel smiles as he sets up the row of glasses. This is good for business, after all. With Vetfaan so…infatuated…with Mizz Hoogenboezem, that he even forgot the implication of a ‘round-on-the-house’, the imminent burst of activity in Boggel’s Place is going to turn a slow day, into a profitable one.

Servaas was sitting in the corner, reading about the recent winnings at the Kalahari Oasis Casino, when he hears the magic words. Losing no time, he shuffles out to alert the town to the joyful happenings at Boggel’s Place.

Two hours later the little bar is bursting at the seams. Not only is Grootdrink well represented: the families staying out towards Bitterwater also joined the party. How the news spreads under such circumstances, is not certain; but whisper ‘free booze’ in the Kalahari, and you can be sure they’ll hear it in Kenhardt and Calvinia.

 “But who is that lady?” Precilla peers through the crowd at the woman who started it all.

“Mizz Hoogenboezem, she said. I think she’s famous for something – she acts like everybody should know her. She tried to chat Vetfaan up, but since he’s realised what he has done by calling for a round on the house, he seems to have lost interest. He tried to cancel the round – like Kleinpiet did when he sold that ram – but of course, that’s against the rules. He’s sitting there with the calculator, hoping everybody would go home.” Gertruida points at the big man where he’s totalling up the damages.

“But what is she doing here? I mean – if she’s famous, I’m happy for her; but famous people don’t come to Rolbos. There’s nothing for them here.”

The party peters out at about eight. Kleinpiet says it’s a sure sign of old age: you get sleepy before you get drunk. In the end, only Boggel, Vetfaan and Mizz Hoogenboezem are left.

“As the day started, so it ends.” She hasn’t had a lot to drink.

“Indeed. The folly of man is to end up where he started from. Progress is relative.” Vetfaan, on the other hand, has had a few – that’s why he’s so clever.

“I came here, because of you,” she says.

This gets Vetfaan’s full and complete attention.

She tells him that she’s from the BBC and that they are looking for a man to play the role of a big game hunter in a TV sitcom series. They wanted a new face – a face of a rugged, outdoorsy-type of  man. They pay well, she says. It’ll be an ongoing project if the viewers like it. “I’ve been travelling through the Karoo, the Kalahari and the Bushveld for the last few weeks, looking for the perfect face, and the right personality. Rolbos is my last stop, before I catch the plane back to Cape Town in Upington. I must say, I was really getting depressed about South African men – and then I saw you. And, after being so generous with all your mates, I have no doubt that you are the one they are looking for. You will be famous in a few months time.”

By now, Vetfaan is as sober as judges used to be in the Old South Africa. He looks toward Boggel for support, but the barman is polishing glasses.

“I…well.. I don’t know. I have a farm here and…”

“The pay is so good, you will be able to hire a foreman while you’re gone.”

“But I can’t act..”

“Exactly! We want the genuine item, not an actor. Viewers will see right trough the bristling moustache of a British actor. We need a Boereseun who acts normally.” She says boer-e-seun with a heavy accent.

“Hey, lady, that’s very nice and all that. But no, I can’t do it. You see, we lot in Rolbos depend on each other. You take Kleinpiet, or Oudoom, or Gertruida out of Rolbos, and the town just won’t be the same. And as for becoming famous – nah! I won’t like that. We’re happy the way we are, thank you.” Boggel has stopped shining the glasses and uses his stern voice. “And Vetfaan is as much part of us as Vrede is. He can’t go.”

“The problem with the BBC is, ” and here Vetfaan does the finger thing PW  did so well, “is that it’s British.  And that means going to England. And that,” he licks his lips PW-style, “I can’t do. Too much Kalahari in here.” He taps his chest.

“But I beg you to re-con-sider. You’re throwing away a lot of money here.”

The more she pleads, the more Vetfaan tells her she’s got the wrong man. Eventually she offers part of his salary in advance – and still he refuses.

“You are a very stu-pid man,” she says angrily as she gets up to leave. “You could have been rich.”

On her way to Upington, the woman waits for the screen on her cellphone to tell her that she’s connected with the world once more. She dials the long number and waits for the familiar voice to answer.

“No Mario… I went to the most back-ward town in the country, just like you said. Iso-la-ted, no cellphones, no news-papers. And, like you sug-ges-ted, I chose the most likely one – fat, lazy, dumb. And you know what? He turned me down.!”

She listens to the torrent of words from the other side.

“Yes, Yes, Mario, I know that batch must reach you within the next week! It’s not my fault that your reg-u-lar mule got caught last week, after all. Maybe you should simply come and fetch the dope yourself? Then you won’t have the extra expense of paying a courier? How about it?”

She presses the red button when the torrent of words becomes too loud. Of course she doesn’t expect Mario to do his own dirty work. He pays far too well, anyway. No, there are a few other towns she marked on her GPS. Sooner or later she’ll convince some dimwit to fly to London for the audition in the bogus show…some fool who won’t have the faintest idea why she wants him to take along the extra briefcasa…

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