In her late sixties, Amanda Strydom walks a path without ego, the light in which she makes her audiences dance shines through her faithful service to her art and talent, and for that, she is grateful.
Amanda will soon be in the cabaret, Amber/Ombre, to be seen at Aardklop. She describes it as a theater piece that explores worldly challenges; a musical journey in which she finds sadness and solace.
“Amber is a precious stone, it has a yellow-brown color. When the light falls right on it, it turns into a gold and a deep orange. It fits so well with the content of the cabaret,” Amanda told RNews.
“It’s about the state we find ourselves in in this country, but also about the planet and the senselessness of war. It’s about love, because I can’t just plunge the audience into darkness. There is comfort, like a plaster for the nerves in the show. Then we end with hope, and hopefully blessing.”
This cabaret puts the pain, challenges and high mountain peaks that South Africans have to climb daily into the spotlight. It is a collective experience that each audience member understands in a deep way.
“All the darkness, pain and public humiliation I experienced when I stood up against Apartheid in the 1980s made me the person I am today. I’m not blind to what’s going on in this country either, I’ll still rant about issues as I enter Amber/Ombre do,” she says.
“I make it clear in this show what our government is doing to us. These are the oppressed I stood up for back then, but today it seems like there are even more oppressed. We are without power, the taps are dry in places, but we continue, because this is who we are.”
Amanda admits that this is one of the most difficult musical cabarets she has ever undertaken.
“My musicians almost divorced me in the process,” she jokes.
In this piece, her lyrics and poetry can be heard, but also those of her late friend, Ralph Rabie, better known as Johannes Kerkorrel, and her mentor, Hennie Aucamp.
These words that flow through her own life are included as connecting text Amber/Ombre use.
“I sing Afrikaans, of course, the language of my heart in the piece. I also sing in English, Dutch and Spanish. At the end of the show, it’s as if the audience feels a collective redemption.”
Although this cabaret poses a special musical challenge for her, it is precisely these challenges that Amanda sees as renewal.
She enjoys coming up with new stage pieces every year, climbing new acting mountains and venturing into musical waters. Without these challenges, her life would have been pretty boring, she admits.
“If you don’t grow and mature as an artist, you’re stuck. There are artists who do the same thing over and over again, but I wouldn’t be able to do that. It will bore me – and if I bore myself, then I bore my audience,” believes Amanda.
Throughout her career, which spanned four decades, she knew that her art and her versatility could not be easily separated. Whether it was acting, singing or writing, she knew that these three art forms constantly played an omnipresent and equal role in her life and career.
This is precisely why she could never really make herself at home in a soap opera world, she says. And this is also why cabarets beckoned to her with allure – “in it you can do all three.”
In the early 1990s, after regional councils, such as the Capeland Council for the Performing Arts (Kruik) and the Transvaal Council for the Performing Arts (Truk), were abolished, artists had to look elsewhere. At the time, artists were taken care of, Amanda recalls, with contracts, salaries, medical and pension funds.
Then it fell away, and artists had to find stability elsewhere. In this fickle and uncertain period, art festivals were created. “A wonderful gift to artists,” says Amanda nostalgically.
“Arts festivals saved our industry. Festivals serve art in all its forms. This is where painters, dancers, singers, writers, poets and actors are at home. When you cut off the aesthetic vein of a country, you commit suicide.
“Art has the ability to connect people in the same way that sport does.”
Amanda admits that the arts have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. Theatergoers dread evening shows, while afternoon shows are often fully booked. “Just another consequence of the pandemic that people have become accustomed to,” she says.
Yet it also made her realize that daily gratitude is of inestimable value, that she must empty herself of ego and that what she does on stage is at the service of her audiences.
“How wonderful is it to be able to grow like this?”
She looks with wonder at her contemporaries in the entertainment industry, but also at younger people who are trying to carve their entertainment path. For them she grants worlds of inspiration.
“I want young people to realize that instant fame is easy, and that they should always strive to be unique. It doesn’t help to copy others, you have to say what you want to say. It’s not an easy road, but it’s a satisfying road, because you haven’t sold your soul.”
Today, at 67, Amanda is grateful for her talent, subservient to her art, and less, where she would have tried to be more in the past. She lives humbly with her husband, and admits that when she is not on stage, they are really just hermits enjoying the quiet peace of life.
When she looks at her 44 years in the industry, she gets nostalgic. “This is the tapestry of life,” she says.
“I gained so much life experience, especially when I was admitted to psychiatric institutions at the time due to my bipolar depression. I saw so much pain, but also so many miracles. I’ve seen people rise from the darkness and get on with their lives.”
- For more information about Aardklop, Amber/Ombre and to purchase tickets for shows, visit this website.