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VIDEO: ‘District Six’ by Woodridge College – More Than A Show…

Jul 29, 2017
VIDEO: ‘District Six’ by Woodridge College – More Than A Show…

From 3 to 5 August Woodridge College will be staging David Kramer and Taliep Petersen’s award winning musical ‘District Six’ in the Savoy Theatre.

‘District Six’ first exploded onto South African stages in the late 1980’s, bravely and vibrantly telling the story of the destruction of District Six and the forced removal of its people. The success of these performances was repeated with the Baxter Theatre production of 2002/3. 

2017 is a particularly apt year to revive the production, as it marks the 10thyear commemoration of Taliep Petersen’s untimely passing.  The musical portrays the devastation that ensues when dignity and human rights are selfishly disregarded, and serves as a cautionary tale to present day South Africa. 

The Woodridge production of this iconic show will be directed by Caren Bestbier, with Virgil Matrass as musical director and Chireen Ferreira as choreographer. 

Despite the challenges posed by the recent fire damage to Woodridge, the 55 District Six cast and backstage crew members have poured relentless effort into daily practices.  Some of the leading actors include Jason Syce, as the flamboyant gangster Nines, Luvo Titus, as the Blind Man Damaka, and Siyabonga Motaung and Lois Felix as Cassiem and Mary, the romantic leads. 

Caren, currently Head of Dramatic Arts at Woodridge College, has over 20 years of experience in theatre and drama. She is an award-winning Stage Manager, Lighting and Set Designer.  

Caren won the PEMADS Best Actress award in 2016 for her performance in The Ex Factor, and the Showtime Best Supporting Actress award in 2017 for Careful. She is embracing the challenge of wearing the Director’s hat for the first time and has the following to say:

“It has been an honour to work with the incredibly talented and dedicated young people on this production. When I chose this particular musical almost a year ago, I had no idea how relevant and meaningful it would end up being for my cast, and indeed our whole Woodridge community. Drama has the potential to heal and teach, and I believe that the decision to continue with the show after the fire damage to our school will only strengthen the famous Woodridge Spirit!”

Virgil is the Choral Director and Voice and Piano teacher at Woodridge, where his pupils excel in both classically oriented and contemporary external examinations. 

He is well-known to Port Elizabeth audiences as a member of the acclaimed close-harmony vocal group ‘The Creed’, which recently performed at the Grahamstown International Arts Festival and is about to release their first CD.  This versatile musician has, furthermore, performed internationally as soloist in the Marriott Associa Hotel in Nagoya, Japan.

Chireen has been in the industry for 37 years, as a singer, dancer, actress, choreographer, producer and director.  A few of her professional performing accolades include Eva Peron (Evita), Ariel ( Footloose ) and Rumpleteaser ( Cats - Andrew Lloyd Webber's world touring company).

She has also been the choreographer for Port Elizabeth shows such as Grease, Beauty and the Beast Shrek, Blood Brothers and the Addams Famliy.  Chireen reflects on the ‘Woodridge’ production as follows:

"While this is the first time I've worked with Woodridge College on a production, I'm happy that it is with DISTRICT SIX, such a brilliant piece of South African musical theatre."

"I am blown away by the performances of these young students, who are mostly new to the drama world, and I cannot wait for PE to go on this tragic, emotional, hysterically funny journey with us. With their beautiful voices and lively dancing, these young performers are sure to lift everyone's spirits."

"Since the school has just recently gone through a similar tragedy of losing something so special, this production means more to these kids than just another school play."

Be sure to experience the unbroken spirit of Woodridge in this poignant, vibrant and socially relevant production.  Tickets are available from Computicket and are priced at R 95 for adults/children and R 85 for pensioners for all shows, except the Opening Evening (3 August).  Tickets for the latter are priced at R 110 and include refreshments. 

Watch to see a snippet of 'District Six' performed by the Woodridge cast