Having been delightfully entertained by The Pinups at their show I am what I am at Kalk Bay Theatre on Wednesday evening, I looked forward to meeting up with producer and cast member, Angela Inglis, over a cup of coffee this morning.
It became immediately obvious why this talented foursome is so successful. Angela, Natasha Dryden, Bethany Dickson Mahnke and director and pianist Garth Tavares are passionate about the theatre and about performing – and are good friends to boot.
“We value each other’s passion, dedication and talent and the fact that each of us will give 150% to our performances. We have become close friends and enjoy performing together,” says Angela.
Natasha and Angela, who became friends while studying at the Waterfront Theatre School, performed in a three hander Afrikaans drama, Se my alles, at the Grahamstown Festival last year. The play was written by award-winning South African writer Francois Bloemhof, known for his radio dramas. By chance there were three other Afrikaans shows at this essentially English festival which helped to draw the crowds.
Angela and Bethany met while performing in Mike McCullagh’s 90’s Mania at the Roxy Bar at Grand West Casino last year. “We hit it off immediately … laughed until the tears ran! Our voices also blend well together,” says Angela. “I saw the potential for a dynamic show with Natasha and Bethany, and when I asked Garth to come on board, I am what I am came to life. Nicholas Spagnoletti, Edward Van Kuik and John Keevy of Alexander Bar and Cafe, have formed the Alexander Upstairs Theatre, which hosted our premier of I Am What I Am and we saw two weeks of sold out shows, resulting in our going back for a second run! There was a wonderful energy that just worked. The show was organically created around a message that is heartfelt and raw – a message of accepting who you are and your own foibles and the foibles of those close to you. We all at some point question ourselves, question who we are and whether we are going to be accepted. In relationships we expect to find the perfect person, which is a massive amount of pressure to live under! We should not be judging ourselves or others. All of us need to learn to take ourselves less seriously! And this is what our songs are all about.”
There would have been few, if any, in the audience who did not identify with one or more of the songs in the repertoire. The Pinups audience tends to be a complete mix of ages, “from 13 year old girls to 70 year old men! There is something in our show for everyone to laugh at or reflect on. We have had people come up to us after the show saying that we sang about things that they think about but never talk about!”
The foursome were going to take I am what I am to the Grahamstown Festival this year but the three young actresses have all been signed up for other performances. Angela will be appearing in The Rocky Horror Show at the Fugard Theatre in July, Bethany has a role in Peter Toerien’s Sunset Boulevard which will be performed in Johannesburg and Cape Town and Natasha will be involved in Lara Foot-Newton’s Long Street.
“We will have to see when we can perform together again, but this is definitely something we will not let go of easily!”
Speaking of creativity Angela says that it is “fantastic taking an idea, playing around with it, brainstorming and transforming it into a professional performance. You put your trust in your talents and creativity and in the universe and hope that what you create will resonate with your audience. As long as you have trust in your creativity you will have the motivation to put it on stage. One needs to keep learning to trust that little inner voice that says ‘try this, this will work.’ If you can ‘see’ something in your head then it is possible.”
Angela says that they have learnt a lot through working with Garth. “Garth has a magical gift of being able to interpret the performance for an audience. As actors, our role is to interpret the text, serve the writer and what he intended for each song, and to relay this to the audience. Garth has a great way of bringing this out in us. He works with each of us differently. He is a brilliant pianist and choreographer and his knowledge of musical theatre is astounding.”
Angela has always loved being on stage. She speaks highly of her drama teachers at Herschel, Alan Committee and Tessa Steyn. Apart from getting involved in many school productions she was also always a member of the choir. Post matric, she took a gap year before studying Physiotherapy at UCT. While studying she worked at Stardust as a waitress and a performer. She also formed a two ‘man’ acoustic band with a friend, playing gigs at various venues. She knew that she needed to get back on stage so, encouraged by a friend, she auditioned for a place at the Waterfront Theatre School where she studied under Delia Sainsbury, Keith Galloway and Paul Griffiths – and she has not looked back.
Natasha went straight into theatre after school. “She has a passion for live raw acting,” says Angela. “She is brilliant when it comes to text – in understanding and enterpreting it and in conveying its message to the audience. She is doing well in castings and appears in a number of commercials.
“Beth comes from a very musical family. Her mom, Julie Dickson, has a beautiful singing voice, as has Beth, who has a sentimental quality to her voice. She has the audience eating out of her hand. She is not to be toyed with, though – she can really nail a rock song!”
Angela is grateful for the support and friendship of Garth, Beth and Natasha, for she says that the performing industry can be difficult at times. “We are a strong team and backstage we give each other a great deal of encouragement and support. We each play a different role in creating what makes ‘us’ work”.
Angela also expressed gratitude to the people who have helped them all along the way, especially to Delia Sainsbury, Paul Griffiths and Sam de Romijn – their teachers and mentors at college. “They always come to our shows and offer advice and suggestions. We feel safe having such wonderful mentors. We are also grateful to Sam who together with Paul founded the Imbewu Trust, which supports new and upcoming artists in South Africa. Our proposal won Natasha and me the Imbewu Fly Free bursary which allowed us the opportunity to take our show to the Grahamstown Festival in 2012.” She also expressed heartfelt gratitude to their parents, families and friends who are always “incredibly supportive.”
Angela hopes to go to New York next year to do auditions. “ I want to open myself up to as many opportunities as I can. Who knows what surprises life will bring!”
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I am what I am runs at the Kalk Bay Theatre until the 16 March. For details see
Copyright Viv von der Heyden