NAF 2015: Interview with Quintin Wils

Carina Nel in Suster (Pic by Jaco Jansen van Rensburg)
Carina Nel in Suster (Pic by Jaco Jansen van Rensburg)

This interview was first published in Cape Times on 25 June 2015.

While this year’s National Arts Festival (NAF) will be enjoyed by most from the (relative) comfort of the various school and/or other plastic chairs sourced from all over Grahamstown, for those working behind the scenes the story can be quite different.

“To be honest, I think I might just lose it completely sometime over the course of the week,” quips ImpACT Award for Theatre nominee Quintin Wils.

One of several productions he is taking to the festival this year, Cape Town audiences were first introduced to this young Gauteng-based director’s work through Smaarties, which enjoyed a run at Alexander Upstairs last year.

The first part in a theatrical trilogy, Wills will take Smaarties along with its second instalment, Suster, as well as a brand new “mobile thriller”, called aLEXA (a reference to its lead character), to Grahamstown. In addition, he’s also signed up for a collaboration with former Standard Bank Young Artist (SBYA) for Theatre, Sylvaine Strike, as part of Simply Sapiens.

“Because I’m also handling all the technical aspects at my shows as well, I will literally be present at almost all of my productions during the festival. So, yes, I’ll basically be running around like a headless chicken trying to fit everything in,” he laughs.

Quintin Wils (Pic by Jaco Jansen van Rensburg)
Quintin Wils (Pic by Jaco Jansen van Rensburg)

A typical NAF day for Wils includes getting up at 6am, attending various technical rehearsals, the setting up of stages and performance spaces, then the clearing of them out afterwards, compiling notes to his casts and crews as well as catching up on admin for other projects he’s got kicking off immediately after the festival.

Referring to the concept behind Suster, he explains that the plot follows the story of the sibling of the main character featured in Smaarties, Mr. Lotz. Both pieces were written by Jannes Erasmus.

“You might recall that Jannes was also the lead actor in Smaarties. Suster, in turn, stars the exceptionally talented Carina Nel. It is a powerful one-woman show which follows the journey of Sybil, a lady diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) after the death of her parents.

“But while both plays are so closely linked via plot and characters, they are at the same time far enough removed from one another in order to be watched as standalone pieces.”

Asked what exactly a “mobile thriller” is, Wils answers that it’s a production that plays of inside a moving vehicle.


aLEXA has three audience members sitting in a driving car, along with the actors, while the production is taking place right in front of, and around them.

“I have also given the piece an immersive theatre edge, which means that the audience will not only be observing and watching the actors, but they will also interact with them and have a say in which direction the production can take a turn.”

When approached to stage Simply Sapiens alongside Sylvaine Strike and Megan Wilson, he says he “completely freaked out.”

“The production features three standalone plays, performed by the same two actors – Greg Melvill-Smith and Craig Morris – over three acts.  Each play was written and directed by a director from a different generation. I was chosen to represent the younger generation.

“My piece is Crossing, and in it Greg’s character is asking whether we as humans are just surviving, or trying to survive through violence without even noticing it. Physical theatre is used at first by an unnamed creature to try and word this to the audience, but is then stuck by having to resort to words to communicate with his audience instead.”

When coming to experience his work for the first time at NAF, Wils advises that the most important thing to remember is to enjoy each piece for what it represents individually.

“Some audience members have told me that my work usually kicks them in their stomach and throws them into deep ends that they’ve never explored before – but all in a good way!

“When started directing, I decided for myself that I will always try my utmost to create and direct work that people will not only look at and remember, but that they feel like they have actually experienced something afterwards.”

l NAF takes place from July 2 – July 12. For full show schedule and booking details, see and, or follow @artsfestival on Twitter.

Steyn du Toit is a Cape Town-based freelance arts journalist. For any questions please e-mail steyndutoit (at) gmail (dot) com. 

NAF 2015: Interview with Quintin Wils


Adriana Jamisse and Julia de Rosenwerth in Chalk (Pic: Nicola Elliott).
Adriana Jamisse and Julia de Rosenwerth in Chalk (Pic: Nicola Elliott).

This interview was first published in Sunday Independent on 8 March 2015.

Choreographer Nicola Elliott debuts a brand new work at Cape Town’s Infecting the City festival this week. Steyn du Toit talks to the former Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance about parkour, cityscapes and drawing lines with chalk.

“I’ve always been inspired by bodies that treat the cityscape as a playground for expression,” Elliott tells me at the start of our interview.

“They aren’t confined by rules, yet they aren’t destructive either. Just look at how parkour allows its practitioners to use the cityscape as a springboard for their own assertion of freedom.”

Elliott’s latest performance piece involves performers Richard Antrobus, Julia de Rosenwerth, Adriana Jamisse and Kopano Maroga engaging in a “dance game” within the unstable demarcations of a shifting and busy pedestrian intersection on Cape Town’s Parliament Street.

Performances are scheduled for Friday, March 13 at 12:30 and Saturday, March 14 at 10:30.

Nicola Elliott (Pic: Timmy Henny).
Nicola Elliott (Pic: Timmy Henny).

“Aiming to explore the power and play of demarcation, Chalk sees the disruption of the status quo through opposing the normative mode of physicality within a particular environment.”

Referring to the psychogeographical concept of the dérive as one of her inspirations, she continues that the practice envisions bodies in the cityscape that are not defined by product or purpose.

“Rather, they drift or wander through the city often into places or across boundaries in direct opposition to how the city aims to process its bodies.

Chalk is about the human shape within Cape Town’s cityscape. Its beautiful buildings seem rather inorganic, and even permanent, in comparison to our very fleeting human shapes.”

By drawing chalk lines in a similar way to how it is used to demarcate a space for bodies to play during sports, Elliott has also framed her performers’ game within its public setting. It now becomes a playground on which their bodies can be “non-product orientated”.

“Of course, theoretically, one doesn’t need a cordoned off space to be allowed physical expressive freedom in the city. Or do you?”

Adriana Jamisse and Julia de Rosenwerth (Pic: Nicola Elliott).
Adriana Jamisse and Julia de Rosenwerth (Pic: Nicola Elliott).

During their performance, the dancers are required to use the chalk to record “where” they’ve been and “how” they’ve been as well.

“Sometimes it’s a very calming and harmonious process to watch, and then there are moments during which they proceed to break out of the order in search of some well-deserved chaos.

“During rehearsals the cast and I worked with a lot of task-driven improvisation when creating the ‘language’ and experiences of the piece. The first step was to define what it was that the work wanted to say or do.

“After learning the ‘language’, we then set out finding a way of ‘talking’ with the space that we’ll be performing in. While the language itself has its moments of being physically demanding and virtuosic, what’s more important is that the dancers need to be highly sensitive to their environment, as well as to how their bodies respond to it”.

When coming to see Chalk, Elliott hopes that viewers will leave feeling more sensitive to their own physicality within the busy environment of the Mother City.

“I hope that they will notice their own body more, and perhaps even allow it a few more deep breaths, or to take the time to wander around the city a bit.

“I conceive of it introducing a broader spectrum of human body shape into the performance of the city. It’s to make us self aware and more sentient.”

To book tickets for Chalk, or to see the full Infecting the City programme and schedule, on until March 14 , see and, or follow @InfectingtheCT on Twitter.