Brett Bailey: "I want to fire people up with stories"

July 2009 -

In his rendition of Orpheus, South African theatre-maker Brett Bailey takes his audience to an African underworld that is governed - from a laptop - by a seedy businessman. Bailey's perspective is post-colonial, showing a decaying globalised world in which not only shamanic rituals but also moving music create an entirely unique African atmosphere.

"I might not have done this production if I hadn't studied with DasArts. There I especially had to learn how to think conceptually, and that was very difficult at first. So once I returned to South Africa, I didn't do anything with what I had learned. Years later, however, it finally fell into place. Which is why I am happy that I could produce Orpheus in Amsterdam."

"I love classical themes and I am really first and foremost a storyteller," says Bailey. "You don't find many of those in South African theatres. The climate is rather restrictive: comedies are the mainstream and contemporary theatre is seldom seen. For the record, I am not at all interested in using the theatre to inform the public. What I want to do is to fire people up with stories that will move them emotionally. My favourite sources of inspiration are the classics: I am going to stage a Macbeth next. Like I did with Orpheus, I want my interpretation to include South African background aspects."

"That also improves the extent to which we reach the audience, especially when the stage is on location. This method known as site-specific theatre is new in South Africa." Bailey mockingly named his company Third World Bunfight. "We are privileged to have many sponsors, but we still have to fight our way. We often give training programmes elsewhere. In Zimbabwe as well as Uganda, we hope to stimulate individuals in their development, if only a little."

Third World Bunfinght is supported by Hivos, the Prince Claus Fund, the Hivos-NCDO Culture Fund and the Dutch Embassy in South Africa.

Orfeus was performed during the Holland Festival 2009.