Two Essential Elements in Planning a Solo Travel Adventure

Rome Colisseum

Rome Colosseum

Successfully planning an adventure trip requires thoughtful preparation – especially when you’re traveling alone. This post discusses two essential considerations – accommodation and transportation.

Why Plan? Why Travel Solo?

Travel planning is important. Disregarding it could mean losing precious time or experiencing an unexpected and unwanted travel disaster. The process may leave you giddy and full of anticipation one day and exhausted from reviewing tedious details another. If things run amuck in unfamiliar territory there’s no one to fall back on, so solo travelers must be intrepid and self-reliant.

Rome

Ponte Sisto Bridge Rome

Planning a true adventure means stepping out of the familiar and leaving your comfort zone behind. In my travel blog, I describe a few hair-raising experiences that taught me to try to remain calm and always have a plan B.  Some adventurous souls travel on the fly, but even in today’s electronic world wise travelers think their trips out in advance. The key is viewing travel adversity as empowering, not terrifying, but it’s OK to scream a few times along the way!

Years ago, before taking to the road on my own, I traveled with one other person or in large and small groups. While focusing on the adventure, I also tried to get to know my fellow travelers and follow a deadline driven guide with a rigid, fast-paced itinerary.

Trevi Fountain Rome

Trevi Fountain Rome

At the end of those adventures I often felt dizzy and unfulfilled and asked myself why was I doing it? Was it to be safer, because I couldn’t plan a trip myself, or was I afraid of being alone and in need of having others to share the experiences? The answer to these questions was a resounding “no”. At the same time, I knew some semblance of structure was necessary to ensure comfort and safety.

When the basics are under control travelers can relax, forget themselves, and enjoy the real reason for traveling – learning about delicious new cultures and environments! Realizing I didn’t need someone else to do the planning was liberating.

Lison

Alfama District Lisbon Portugal

People are as different as travel adventures and the way you plan or IF you plan depends on your personality and the journey you’re contemplating. The consequences of your decision are more serious depending on where you’re headed – Canada on the lower-end of the scale (maybe) versus Turkey and parts of Asia and Africa on the higher-end. I’ve experienced both poorly and overly planned trips and lived to tell the tale. Reaching a happy medium is ideal.

Accommodation – What Kind, Where?

When staying in one place for several weeks or longer, accommodation becomes more important, at least it is for me. Although you’re exploring most of the day, everyone needs a safe, private place to rejuvenate and collect their thoughts. For me a suitable accommodation is clean, well-managed, and in a good location.

Today there are abundant on-line booking sources, and they’re getting better and better. There are many choices depending on your budget and preferences – short-term apartment rentals, hostels, bed & breakfast, guest houses, refugios, pensions, homestays, hotels, paradors, couch surfing, and more. Because my goal is mingling with the locals and experiencing the “real” culture of a foreign country, I usually look for smaller reasonably priced accommodations with glowing reviews.

Skyline Prague Czech Republic

Skyline Prague Czech Republic

Before booking, research neighborhoods to understand which areas work best for your style, budget, and interests. If you book in the wrong location, it might be uncomfortable and could ruin the experience.

Unless you’ve stayed at a place before, remember that reality and on-line photographs are two different worlds. Read traveler reviews and make sure they’re “verified” and not written by friends or business associates of the owner or someone benefiting from your choice. Honest people who have stayed in an accommodation are in the best position to rate it. Their comments are valuable.

Church of Our Lady before Týn

Church of Our Lady before Týn Prague

Ask questions, communicate well, and clarify your needs – quiet, Wi-Fi, etc. Again, read reviews to discover catch-22s, e.g., buildings with 10 floors and no elevator, noisy cafés next door, poor acoustics, and locations in crime-ridden areas or far from transportation connections.

A healthy breakfast is important before a long day exploring, so if your accommodation doesn’t have a kitchen, look for those that offer breakfast. Finally, a concierge and friendly staff are key people.  Don’t hesitate to ask them for help. They take care of you and are your family away from home! At the same time beware of overly attentive staff who may invade your privacy.

To Book or Not to Book

Booking no penalty, “cancellable” accommodations before making non-refundable transportation arrangements is wise. I like to feel free to explore without restraints like worrying about making it to the next accommodation booking on time. I’m leery of accommodations that require full payment upfront and don’t like to commit to long-term bookings until I’ve seen them with my own eyes.

Bosphorus Strait Istanbul

Bosphorus Strait Istanbul

If you travel during high season, finding the right accommodation can be expensive and challenging. In this case, advance booking may be advisable. I’ve experienced the trauma of seeking accommodation in popular Cape Town South Africa during their glorious summer season. Vacancies are scarce and accommodations overpriced. The city’s infrastructure clearly hasn’t kept pace with the growing tourist industry with landlords not especially tuned to the needs of their tenants.

During extended trips of 6 to 12 months, I don’t pre-book accommodations. Instead, I make reservations when I have a specific departure date and am ready to move on to a new place. This allows a traveler to linger in the special places they enjoy and say goodbye when uncomfortable.

Copenhagen Denmark

Nyhavn Waterfront Copenhagen Denmark

Transportation – Getting Around in an Unfamiliar Environment

In some countries renting a car and driving is the best way to go, but even with a good GPS, this scenario is difficult for solo travelers. I’ve driven solo in Italy, Germany, Spain, New Zealand, and South Africa and admittedly scared myself more times than I care to recall…. More than one pair of eyes is helpful.

When driving in a foreign country there are many learning curves from poor freeway signage to dim lighting and in some places driving on the wrong side of the road. Not surprisingly there’s never a shortage of reckless drivers all over the world!

Archipelago of the Azores

Archipelago of the Azores Portugal

If you’re in an accident or put a dent in a rental car, it will cost you big time unless you pay a large fee up front to cover any damages. I’ve learned that no matter how careful you are, it seems there is always at least one ding when you return a rental.

Most large cities have horrific traffic congestion but fantastic public transportation systems. It may take a few days to figure things out, but in the long run public transportation is often the most cost-effective, efficient way to navigate. If you’re rich you can hire a taxi or limo, but you may wait in bottlenecked gridlocked traffic for hours on the way to your destination. An inexpensive transportation pass works well and can help you get in touch with the “real” locals wherever you are.

Heed these notes of caution. Riding packed public transportation during busy commute hours isn’t a great idea, especially if you’ve been out all day and are feeling tired. Clever thieves and pickpockets know what they’re doing and can spot their most vulnerable targets easily. You can be sure that they won’t show you any mercy.

In Europe, traveling between cities and countries via the Eurail system or local train connections is comfortable, affordable, and in most cases less expensive than flying. PLUS, you meet new people and enjoy incredible scenery along the way!

Bosphorus Strait Istanbul Turkey

Bosphorus Strait Istanbul Turkey

What If You Need Help?

If you’re involved in an accident or need help from a local organization, be calm and realize it may be a frustrating experience. I remember being pickpocketed in Rome and reporting the theft to the Polizia Locale. It was a long drawn out process and felt more like I was being arrested than reporting a crime. In the end, the experience produced the paperwork needed to send an insurance claim for my stolen camera.

Istanbul Taksim Trolley

Taksim Trolley Istanbul

I recommend visiting the US Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) and registering your trip – especially for long-term and solo travelers. The State Department’s notes, cautions, and special alerts are interesting and informative. When you register, you’ll receive email alerts about situations of concern in the countries you’re visiting. Keep in mind that even though this information is noteworthy, sometimes the warnings may be overkill.

Wherever you travel abroad, it’s advisable to know how to reach the nearest US Embassy.

Other Considerations

Up front planning and understanding the basics of booking accommodations and local transportation helps demystify your journey, making it easier and more enjoyable. Other considerations for long-term travelers include preparing for language differences, obtaining visas, exchanging money, and packing light but for both hot and cold weather. A variety of travel apps help address many of these concerns but they’re topics for future travel blog posts.

Next Solo Adventure

I’m planning my next travel adventure through five European countries on the way back to South Africa where I have a retirement visa. I decided to revisit three magnificent cities that stole my heart in the past – Prague, Rome, and Istanbul. Portugal and Denmark are new destinations on the itinerary. I’m so excited about the next adventure! Is anyone else planning a trip? I’d love to hear about it!

Oregon Ice Storm

Mother Nature had her way with Oregon this week as plunging temperatures and freezing rain delivered havoc with an onslaught of fallen trees and damaged power lines. We love our trees but they come with a price. Beautiful icy vistas were the unexpected outcome of the treacherous weather!

My area in the south hills was without power long enough to get everyone’s attention. The severe cold coupled with the sound of falling branches and cracking, splitting tree trunks continues. Temperatures remain in the 20s to low 30s as we listen to the sound of occasional thawing icicles falling on the roof. It’s unnerving being surrounded by frozen, skyscraper-sized trees bending low from a heavy coating of ice.

Side of House

Side of House

I ventured out yesterday and delighted in the beauty of dramatic skies and sunshine casting a halo-like glow on the ice-laden trees! It was like being inside a magnificent ice palace. Too dangerous to stop for photos while driving I managed to photograph a favorite area near my home – photography does not capture the magnificent show!

Cleanup begins as soon as things thaw out a bit. So far my roof and skylights have survived unscathed but maybe it’s too early to say.  Can’t help thinking about the beautiful beaches and warm summer weather back in Cape Town!

Franschhoek Valley South Africa

Franschhoek Valley

If there’s a “heaven on earth” Franschhoek must be as close as you get! The small traditionally French town is one of the oldest in South Africa. Embraced by three mountain ranges – FranschhoekWemmershoek, and Groot Drakenstein – the beautiful valley is a few miles east of Stellenbosch and Paarl and a one-hour drive from Cape Town. In 2000 Franschhoek became part of the Municipality of Stellenbosch.

Huegoinat Monument

Huguenot Monument

French Huguenot settlers arrived in the valley during the 17th and 18th centuries when France outlawed Protestantism in their homeland. The Dutch government gave land to French settlers in the area originally known as Olifants Hoek (elephants’ corner) because elephants crossed into the valley to calve.

Wemmershoek Mountains

Wemmershoek Mountains

Most wine farms in the valley retained their original French names. The buildings are examples of beautiful unspoiled Cape Dutch architecture. To preserve the spirit of the original settlers, there are restrictions on renovations and new construction. The area has miles and miles of vineyards and Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve with scenic hiking trails and sweeping views of the fertile valley.

Franschoek Vineyard

“The name of the area changed to le Coin Français (the French Corner) and later to Franschhoek (Dutch for French Corner). Many of the surnames in Franschhoek are of French origin and settlers named their farms after the areas in France from which they came. La Motte, Champagne, La Cotte, Cabrière, La Provence, Bourgogne, La Terra de Luc, and La Dauphine were among some of the first established farms.” These farms are now renowned wineries, many with famous four and five-star restaurants.

Cape Dutch Architecture

Got a late start and missed the last “wine tram” of the day. I drove the sometimes isolated vineyard route getting lost on back roads trying to find La Bourgogne’s outside restaurant. Instead I stopped for late lunch at Café BonBon at La Petite Dauphine off Excelsior Road. It was almost 3 pm and only a few people were dining on the peaceful , quiet patio. The food and beautiful scenery were so amazing I lingered for hours!

Dutch Reform Church

Huguenot Monument

To honor Franschhoek’s heritage, the Huguenot Monument stands at the end of the town and a nearby museum chronicles the history of the area’s first French settlers. Each Huguenot farm has a fascinating story.

Wine Tram

In 1904 a secondary train line was built between Paarl and Franschhoek to replace ox drawn carts farmers used to get their produce to market. “Steam locomotives operated along the route until diesel locomotives took over in the 1970s. In the 1990s railway service ended. In 2012 a clever private operator reinstated the tram line. Now known as the Fanschhoek Wine Tram, the renovated tram transports tourists between wine estates in open-sided Brill Trams of circa 1890.”

Cape Dutch Architecture

The popular hop-on-hop-off wine tram is a great way to tour the wineries. The area experienced a boom in the 1990s that never stopped. “Ideal summer weather, snowy mountain peaks in winter, and a location near Cape Town made Franschhoek a sought after address.”

Franschhoek Wine Tram

Franschhoek Wine Tram

Franschhoek Valley has similarities with Northern California’s Napa Valley and boosts some of the top restaurants in South Africa. This, together with “the strong wine culture and pristine natural and architectural beauty,” turned Franschhoek into what many describe as the “food and wine capital of South Africa”.

Franschhoek Valley

Franschhoek Valley

Shops in Franschhoek village include art, antiques, and galleries with restaurants. Cozy cafés line the main thoroughfare. It’s easy to lose yourself in this place. The valley is a “springboard to other wine routes and the Four Passes Fruit Route,” of which Franschhoek is also part. The four magnificent passes include Viljoen’s, Sir Lowry’s, Franschhoek, and Helshoogte.

Groot Drakenstein Mountains

Groot Drakenstein Mountains

Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve

Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve

Cape Town Opera’s Carmen

Mezzo Soprano Violina Anguelov Carmen

Mezzo Soprano Violina Anguelov Carmen

Cape Town Opera’s production of Georges Bizet’s popular Carmen is glorious! It plays through October 29 at Artscape Theatre and I attended the sold-out Saturday evening performance with a friend. The spectacular production was dedicated to the memory of Carolyn Holden, flamenco choreographer and founder of La Rosa Spanish Dance Theatre. Holden devoted her life to dance. She died an untimely death in 2013 at the age of 50. She choreographed the Opera’s 2005 and 2011 productions of Carmen.

Carmen Billboard

Carmen Billboard

Renowned author and award-winning Opera Director Michael Williams did a spectacular job managing the opera’s staging. On the creative side, Set and Costume Designer Michael Mitchell’s “atmospheric designs conjured up a hot and sultry Seville”.

Carmen and Don Jose

Carmen and Don Jose

The large cast included the adorable, talented Erub Children’s Choir, magnificent soprano, mezzo, tenor, and baritone choruses, and a company of flamenco dancers who brilliantly performed the late Carolyn Holden’s choreography. The always remarkable Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra led by renowned British conductor Tim Murray accompanied the scintillating operatic performance!

Mezzo Soprano Violina Anguelov Carmen

Mezzo Soprano Violina Anguelov Carmen

The cast performed exceptionally well. Mezzo-soprano Violina Anguelov – Carmen – and Canadian Tenor Luc Robert – Don José – gave bold, flawless performances clearly delighting a happy audience!

Soprano Noluvuyiso Mpofu’s voice is hauntingly beautiful in the role of the complex and betrayed character Micaëla. William Berger’s rich baritone voice well-portrays Don José’s rival, the flamboyant bullfighter Escamillo!

I enjoyed every moment during another evening of incredible Cape Town entertainment!

Abdullah Ibrahim Master Musician

Abdullah Ibrahim

Abdullah Ibrahim

Abdullah Ibrahim‘s solo performance at The Fugard last night was captivating! The beautiful piano was setup in a cozy theatre illuminated by soft blue lighting. With almost a sellout performance Ibrahim held delighted jazz enthusiasts captive with 1.5 hours of incredible uninterrupted sets. The distinguished musician’s performance was impeccable. He began with sheet music but quickly pushed it aside and played from his heart and soul.

Abdullah Ibrahim

Abdullah Ibrahim

At 82, Ibrahim’s fascinating life has been full – from his upbringing in Cape Town’s District Six to his political activism, spiritual enlightenment, and friendship with Nelson Mandela, association with other famous jazz artists including Duke Ellington, Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, and John Coltrane, extensive worldwide tours, and his record and production companies.

Abdullah Ibrahim

Abdullah Ibrahim

“Ibrahim’s solo program Senzo is described as a monumental defining work. It transcends category, combining the intimate and universal in a unique way hinted at in its title. Senzo means ‘Ancestor’ in Chinese and Japanese. The word echoes the name of Ibrahim’s Sotho father, in whose language it translates as ‘Creator’.”

Abdullah Ibrahim

Abdullah Ibrahim

Baptized Adolph Johannes Brand, Ibrahim was born in 1934 in Cape Town. He grew up listening to traditional Khoisan songs, Christian hymns, and gospel tunes.  His grandmother was the pianist for a local Methodist Episcopalian church. His mother was the choirmaster.

Sathima Bea Benjamin

Sathima Bea Benjamin

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Ibrahim, who also sings, plays flute, saxophone, and cello, is legendary for solo performances that glide his compositions into long, unbroken sets.

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Fugard

Fugard

Ibrahim’s mother was from a “coloured” (mixed-race) family. In adulthood he discovered that his Sotho father was murdered. Ibrahim says “There was heavy, simmering racism – anti-African feeling – in our communities. My grandparents gave me their name so I’d be classified as coloured. I thought they were my parents and grew up believing that my mother was my sister. That code of silence was created by the system. I had a lot of bitterness at an early age.”

Cape Town Jazz Orchestra

Cape Town Jazz Orchestra

“The Cape Town of Ibrahim’s childhood was a melting-pot of cultural influences, and exposed the young Dollar Brand, as he became known, to American jazz, township jive, Cape Malay sounds, and classical music. Out of this rich blend of the secular and religious, the traditional and modern, Ibrahim developed a distinctive style, harmonies, and musical vocabulary that are inimitably his own.”

Abdullah Ibrahim

Abdullah Ibrahim

Ibrahim began piano lessons at seven and made his professional début at fifteen. He played bebop with a Cape Town flavor and formed several bands including the Dollar Brand Trio and the Jazz Epistles. Formed in 1959, the Jazz Epistles included saxophonist Kippie Moeketsi, trumpeter Hugh Masekela, trombonist Jonas Gwanga, bassist Johnny Gertze, and drummer Makaya Ntshoko – all notable South African musicians. That year, he met and first performed with vocalist Sathima Bea Benjamin. They married six years later.

Abdullah Ibrahim

Abdullah Ibrahim

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Ibrahim plays an increasing role as an educator in a still deeply traumatized country.

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“After the notorious Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, mixed-race bands and audiences were defying increasingly strict apartheid laws. Jazz symbolized resistance, so the government closed a number of clubs and harassed the musicians. These were difficult times for musical development in South Africa. Some members of the Jazz Epistles fled to England with the London musical King Kong and stayed in exile.”

Jazz Epistles

Jazz Epistles

In 1962, with Mandela imprisoned and the ANC banned, Dollar Brand and Sathima Bea Benjamin left the country. Later, Gertze and Ntshoko joined them and the trio took up a three-year contract at the Club Africana in Zürich, Switzerland. There, in 1963, Sathima persuaded Duke Ellington to listen to them play. This led to a recording session in Paris – Duke Ellington presents the Dollar Brand Trio – followed by invitations to perform at key European festivals and on television and radio.”

In 1965, the couple moved to New York and appeared at Carnegie Hall and the Newport Jazz Festival on the West Coast. In 1966 Dollar Brand led the Ellington Orchestra in five concerts followed by a six-month tour with the Elvin Jones Quartet. In 1967 Ibrahim received a Rockefeller Foundation grant to attend the renowned Julliard School of Music.

Life in the USA gave Ibrahim the opportunity to interact with progressive musicians, including Don Cherry, John Coltrane, Ekaya, and Pharaoh Sanders. In exile Ibrahim introduced his South African sounds to American musicians, including saxophonist Archie Shepp and drummer Max Roach. “Even though he was successful on the club circuit, by his insistence on a South African idiom he disseminated and created an appetite for South African music.”

In 1968 he returned to Cape Town, converted to Islam, and took the name Abdullah Ibrahim. In 1970 he made a pilgrimage to Mecca and then moved his family to Swaziland where he founded a music school. Ibrahim returned to Cape Town in 1973.

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District Six was the hotbed of the jazz explosion, a “fantastic city within a city”

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Cape Town Jazz Orchestra

Cape Town Jazz Orchestra

In 1974 Ibrahim recorded “Mannenberg – Is where It’s Happening” which soon became an unofficial national anthem for black South Africans. After the Soweto student uprising, in 1976, he organized an illegal ANC benefit concert. Before long he and his family left South Africa and returned to the freedom of New York again.

“In 1990 Nelson Mandela, freed from prison, invited him to come home to South Africa. He reflects the fraught emotions of acclimatizing there again in Mantra Mode (1991), the first recording with South African musicians since 1976, and Knysna Blue (1993). Ibrahim memorably performed at Mandela’s inauguration in 1994.”

Abdullah Ibrahim has been the subject of several documentaries. In 1986 a BBC film Chris Austin’s A Brother with Perfect Timing, and A Struggle for Love by Ciro Cappellari (2004). He has also composed scores for films, including the award-winning soundtrack for Claire Denis’s Chocolat (1988) and Idrissa Ouedraogo’s Tilai (1990).

For over a quarter-century Abdullah Ibrahim has toured the world extensively, appearing at major concert halls, clubs, and festivals. His collaborations with classical orchestras have resulted in acclaimed recordings, such as my favorite African Suite.

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Since he first fled South Africa in 1962, Ibrahim’s increasingly spiritual and meditative jazz has won followers across Europe, the US and Japan.

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Currently Ibrahim divides his time between Cape Town and New York. In addition to composing and performing, he started a South African production company, Masingita (Miracle), and established a music academy, M7, offering courses in seven disciplines to educate young minds and bodies.

In 2006 he spearheaded the historic creation (backed by the South African Ministry of Arts and Culture) of the Cape Town Jazz Orchestra. “The eighteen-piece big band further strengthens the standing of South African music on the global stage.”

South Africa’s Abdullah Ibrahim is known as “a man of inspiration”.

The Emissary Alexander Bar and Café

Emily Child and Andrew Laubscher

Emily Child and Andrew Laubscher – The Emissary

Yesterday I attended a Cape Town Fringe Festival performance – The Emissary – at Alexander Bar and Café Theatre. Written and directed by South African playwright Louis Viljoen, the gripping two-actor play stars impressive award-winning actors Emily Child and Andrew Laubscher. The short production is a “dark study of a friendship rooted in a lie”.

Plot Summary

“While waiting for her long-term boyfriend Patrick to return from an extended stay overseas, Delia agrees to meet Douglas, Patrick’s best friend, to discuss the tensions brewing between them since the beginning of their relationship. One of them is hiding something terrible and this is the night when old wounds and secrets resurface. What follows is an unnerving examination of two troubled people who think they know each other, but have no idea what awful things can lurk in the soul.”

Louis Viljoen

Louis Viljoen Playwright and Director

Louis Viljoen Playwright and Director

Louis Viljoen is a Cape Town based playwright. He’s the Writer in Residence for The Fugard Theatre. No nonsense, self-taught Viljoen helped create the successful short-play initiative “Anthology” which had three successful seasons at the Alexander. He won Fleur Du Cap awards for his plays Champ (2013) and The Kingmakers (2015) and in 2015 the Rosalie van der Gucht Prize for New Directors for The Pervert Laura.

Emily Child Actress

Emily Child A Certain Lady

Emily Child Actress

Emily Child graduated from the University of Cape Town with a Theatre and Performance Degree. She performs independently and as a member of the acclaimed Cape Town based theatre troupe – The Mechanicals.

An accomplished actress, Child has won many awards and nominations, including the 2015 Fleur Du Cap for Best Actress for the role of “Laura” in Viljoen’s The Pervert Laura. Some of her other theatre projects include King Lear and Viljoen’s Champ which traveled to the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival in 2013.

Alexander Bar, Café and Theatre

Alexander Bar, Café and Theatre

In 2014 her one woman show, A Certain Lady, based on Dorothy Parker’s short stories and directed by playwright Greg Karvellas, performed around Cape Town. Recently Emily appeared in Born in the RSA at The Baxter Studio Theatre and Grahamstown Festival directed by Thoko Ntshinga. She also starred in UK playwright Mike Bartlett’s production Contractions performed at Alexander Theatre.

the-pervert-laura-poster_7a2a29c5844ec5929484d5acc80316f1

Billboard The Pervert Laura

On camera Emily’s projects include the South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTA) winning series Armed Response and BBC’s youth series Young Leonardo. She stars in two compelling feature films to be released in 2017 – Director Craig Freimond’s Beyond the River and Shirley Adams written by South African filmmaker Oliver Hermanus.

Andrew Laubscher

Andrew Laubscher Actor

Andrew Laubscher Actor

Andrew Laubscher is a Cape Town based film and theatre actor. Andrew’s performance highlights include Mirror, Cosi, As You Like It, Antony and Cleopatra, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Scandinavian playwright Jorgen Lovborg’s play Lovborg’s Women.

In 2014 Andrew won the Fleur de Cap Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical for his performance as Riff-Raff in The Rocky Horror Show. His most recent work includes Anthology: Anti-Matter directed by Louis Viljoen and the compelling South African film Modder en Bloed – Blood and Glory in Afrikaans.

Laubscher graduated from the University of Cape Town’s School of Drama. He’s involved in children’s theatre, Shakespeare at Maynardville, and productions for The Mechanicals and The Pink Couch, including Mafeking Road, an adaption of short stories by South African writer Herman Charles Bosman.

Alexander Bar, Café and Theatre

Alexander Bar, Café and Theatre

The Emissary is a shocking play and the edgy performances of both actors were extraordinary! I planned to stay for dinner at the Café but was so taken by the performance needed to get outside and walk. I met a French tourist on the patio who was also reeling from the play and after a second viewing still dazzled by the high-quality acting.

Andrew Laubscher and Emily Child

Andrew Laubscher and Emily Child

This was the last run for The Emissary but several other plays are appearing at the Alexander. I enjoyed the atmosphere and will return for more entertaining performances by talented actors, playwrights, and directors in a theatre-rich city.

A Steady Rain – Fugard Theatre

Actors Brent Palmer and Nicholas Pauling

The Fugard Theatre’s powerful production A Steady Rain doesn’t disappoint. I attended the pre-opening of playwright Keith Huff’s award-winning Broadway hit last night and was transfixed by the high-quality performance! Before the Fugard run, actors Brent Palmer and Nicholas Pauling performed the two-man play for sold-out audiences at the Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre.

Palmer and Pauling are brilliant in the “gritty, rich, and entirely gripping noir tale of two morally compromised Chicago police officers whose inner need to serve and protect consumes them and rips them apart”. The play takes place with two actors and a simple set of three props (two chairs and a table) highlighted by excellent lighting. The scenes alternate between “separate monologues and present-moment dialogues” requiring the actors to memorize an incredible amount of text. They slay the Chicago accent!

Nicholas Pauling and Brent Palmer

Nicholas Pauling and Brent Palmer

After years as a successful actor, including a role in the television series Black Sails filmed in Cape Town, Adrian Collins makes his début directing the production. Collins and Palmer were Fleur du Cap award nominees this year for Best New Director and Best Actor.

A Steady Rain takes the audience on a “riveting, relentless journey”. Huff uses “razor-sharp story-telling” to portray the tormented lives of two Chicago police officers, Joey and Denny, who are longtime beat partners and childhood friends.

Director Adrian Collins

Director and Actor Adrian Collins

“Joey and Denny have serious problems. Joey struggles with alcohol while he secretly obsesses over Denny’s wife. Denny is resentful, aggressive, and a racist cheater. During the course of the compelling and devastating narrative, the audience is kept white-knuckled right until the moment the lights go down”.

Nicholas Pauling and Brent Palmer

Joey and Denny

The plot recounts a real-life event involving infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s encounter with the Chicago Police. It focuses on the policemen who “unknowingly return a Vietnamese boy to the cannibalistic serial killer who claims to be the child’s uncle”. When the boy becomes Dahmer’s latest victim the two partners are pressured to take responsibility for their gross negligence in assessing the situation. As the play unravels it reaches a critical point threatening their friendship.

Bret Palmer - Denny

Brent Palmer – Denny

Writer, director, and actor, Brent Palmer is a native of the Western Cape. He grew up in Grassy Park, a suburb of Cape Town in Cape Flats. He trained to be an actor in London. Palmer has appeared in TV and film and stared in theater productions at the Baxter, Artscape, Fugard, Maynardville, and University of Cape Town’s Little Theatre.

Nicholas Pauling-Joey

Nicholas Pauling – Joey

Palmer has written four plays. Two of his plays – Bench and Witness – won Fleur Du Cap awards. The multi-talented Palmer is also a stand-up comedian. He appears at local theatres and has directed and co-written shows for other comedians.

Produced in Chicago in 2007, the acclaimed play won multiple awards. It made its Broadway début in September 2009 starring Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig.

In a compelling and right-on-the money review of the play Steven Oxman of Variety (magazine) observed, “Keith Huff’s cracker jack two-hander … turns out to be less like the perpetual drizzle of its title and more like a snowball that builds to an avalanche. While Huff starts with a couple of familiar characters — good cop/bad cop Chicago patrolmen with alcohol and racism issues — he deepens them into complex figures, compellingly human even at their most despicable. The adroit character development combines with a billowing narrative to deliver some rattling emotional crescendos…. While he could maybe pull back on a contrivance or two, the playwright smartly sticks to his conceit of piling one worse complication on top of another, effectively investing A Steady Rain with genuine dramatic power and a sense of true outrage.”

Loose strands of the spellbinding plot draw together in the play’s masterful finale. It wasn’t light entertainment but gripping, well-performed drama at its very best. Cape Town has provided an incredibly rich live-theatre experience during this visit!