Backstage with 'Aesop's Fables director Mark Dornford-May
Mark Dornford-May's musical, Aesop's Fables, conveys moral messages in a witty way that the whole family can enjoy.
Q: Give me a synopsis of the play
A: It tells the story of Aesop, a Greek slave who yearns for freedom and through his journeys he learns that freedom is earned and kept through being responsible. On his journeys he meets animal characters from the seven parable-like fables - The Tortoise and the Hare, the Lion and the Goat and the Stork and the Wolf.
Q: What inspired you to re-invent these classic tales?
A: These tales have Greek origins but they are morality tales for all cultures and have universal lessons that we can all learn from.
Q: What was the production process like?
A: Three months ago we decided to do this production and we have been rehearsing for the past five weeks.
Q: How did you choose the cast?
A: Isdango is an ensemble company so some of us have been working together for about 10 years, but most of us for five years. We have an amazing cast. Our musical score was adapted by Pauline Malefane, an international superstar.
We also have Poseletso Sejosingoe who was a runner-up in the second series of SA Idols. Aesop is played by Mhlekahi Mosiea, who previously performed as Tamino in Magic Flute - Impempe Yomlingo.
Q: What was the most challenging aspect of bringing the play to life?
A: Having people portray animals was one of the challenges. Our actors have to use their bodies and facial expressions well to make the characters believable. It was also a challenge to tell children's stories without being like a Disney film.
Q: What message are you trying to convey with this play?
A: We are sending out the message that it is wrong to oppress or deny people freedom. And by freedom I mean all forms freedom, like freedom of choice and movement.
The production also illustrates how freedom is earned through being responsible.
Q: What type of audience do you want to attract?
A: This play is aimed at everyone, but we are definitely encouraging a young audience to come. Part of our mission at the Fugard Theatre is to encourage the audience of the future to watch our shows. There's this fallacy that children's theatre is less challenging and of inferior quality but that can't be true because children are more critical and more imaginative than most adults.
Q: What kind of reception have you had from the previews?
A: We have had preview shows for school representatives. The response was amazing; some schools have even booked the entire theatre for the night.
We are getting a lot of block bookings because teachers think it's a great way to start discussions, teach and inspire learners.
- Aesop's Fables is on at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town from June 10 to July 10.