Lesedi Job, the celebrated award-winning South African actress, writer and director, was listening to an interview with Tracy Going last year about her book, Brutal Legacy, when something in her mind clicked.
“I thought to myself, I would love to turn her book into a play,” Job said. “I then spoke to actress Natasha Sutherland, because I wanted her to portray Tracy. I gave her a copy and she managed to get hold of publisher Melinda Ferguson who, along with Tracy, agreed with my idea of turning the book into a play. Tasha and I adapted it together.”
And that’s how the journey to stage Brutal Legacy began. The production, based on the book by Going, a former TV and radio personality, opens this week at the Auto & General Theatre on the Square at Mandela Square in Sandton.
Described as a gripping, uplifting and dramatic account of Going’s experiences, the play features Sutherland and Charlie Bourgeon.
Talking about choosing the right players for the task ahead, Job said after directing Sutherland and Pamela Nomvete in Meet Me at Dawn last year, she wanted to work with both actresses again.
“When I got the idea of turning Brutal Legacy into a play, I always had Tasha in mind. She definitely brings years of experience and emotional depth to her roles.
“I had also worked with Charlie Bourgeon through the years and one of my first directing projects started with Charlie. I had promised him we would both work together again. “Charlie brings a vulnerability and sincerity which I think is necessary when playing the bad guy.
“I was looking for a young actress who wanted an opportunity to be on stage. I found Jess Wolhuter through my agent, OSM Management.
“After our first meeting I was sold. Jess is willing to try and will do anything to make a piece come alive. She brings a lot of courage, which is what this piece needs. She plays Going at different stages of her life.”
Brutal Legacy deals with survival and trying to break the cycle of violence against women. It’s a topical subject.
Said Job: “Sometimes we need to allow ourselves to go back in time to interrogate how our past has influenced our present choices. Doing that is not easy, because we have to embark on a journey of self discovery and that is not only scary, but painful, too.
“However, when we come out on the other side we are the better for it.”
Asked to comment on female empowerment and domestic abuse, and what steps could be taken, Job replied: “I think so often as women, we wait to be empowered. But true empowerment starts with self. We have to find the ways to empower ourselves outside of the confines of what society has defined for us. It’s not easy, but I think the mere fact that one tries is a form of empowerment.
“Domestic abuse is wrong, it’s damaging and destructive.”
She added that women must keep fighting, keep standing against abuse and keep creating a safe space so they can walk away. They need to be empathetic because to stop the cycle of violence, to walk away from abuse is easier said than done.
Producer Daphne Kuhn believes it is significant to present a piece like this as it is a real story to which people can relate, and that highlighting these issues is pertinent and necessary to create a platform for discussion and counselling.
Question-and-answer sessions will be held after the play with key members of the team.