Emily Child hopes to make Fugard proud

Sandra Prinsloo, Emily Child and Marius Weyers in a scene from The Road to Mecca.

Tamboerskloof resident and award-winning actress Emily Child is joining veteran thespians, Sandra Prinsloo and Marius Weyers, on the Fugard’s boards for The Road To Mecca.

The play was written by Athol Fugard in 1984 and is being staged to honour him as he celebrates his 85th birthday this year.

Emily, 32, says they have been hard at work as they want to make Fugard proud.

The story follows a woman’s desire for personal and artistic freedom within the narrow confines of a conservative and highly religious community in the Karoo during the 1970s apartheid era. It was inspired by Helen Martins who lived in Nieu-Bethesda, a village in the Eastern Cape, a church town, like many other Karoo villages.

Fugard created the lead role of Miss Helen for the late South African theatre star Yvonne Bryceland.

This time it is Prinsloo taking the leading role of Ms Helen with Weyers staring as Reverend Marius Byleveld.

Emily plays the role of Elsa Barlow, a teacher in her 30s who is Ms Helen’s closest friend. She understands that Ms Helen has a different outlook on spirituality which has driven many people away from her but Elsa supports her decisions and therefore defends Ms Helen in front of Reverend Marius who was also a good friend of Ms Helen but now urges her to enter into a retirement home.

Ms Helen is dissatisfied with the idea and begins the process of building her own “Mecca” in her yard where she enjoys sipping on tea laced with Valium.

Emily says the play is based on Fugard’s imaginings of the world around these characters. She described being part of the play as a “beautiful challenge” for all three actors. “This has been tough in a good way. We really want to make him proud and the fans of Athol.”

Growing up Emily never had the slightest thought of becoming an actor as she was a shy child and never spoke much to anyone other than her parents and sister.

However, she said since she can remember, she has had a “crazy imagination”.

“I got brave enough to do a school play. I remember walking on stage, opening the show and feeling very at home.”

In 2007 Emily graduated from the University of Cape Town with a degree in Theatre and Performance, specialising in acting.

She then worked closely with the Cape Town-based theatre troupe called The Mechanicals.

Her work has earned her numerous awards and nominations including the 2015 Fleur Du Cap award for Best Actress for the role of Laura in Louis Viljoen’s The Pervert Laura, which last staged at The Fugard Theatre.

Emily enjoys keeping busy and says she has not taken a break since she graduated.

She says she would rather end up creating her own work.

She has just finished work on the BBC One’s American-British series Troy: Fall of a city, which is soon to be released on Netflix.

“The more I am learning about film I seem to love it more but the theatre would always be my number 1 – my heart. Everything that I have learnt in theatre is what allows me to do film”.

Emily is also the author of two children’s books called, Jeff and George, illustrated by Julia Anastasopoulos and the recently published Lucy and Mum’s Shoes, illustrated by Warwick Kay.

She says writing stories calms her down and she enjoys going to schools to read stories and donating to libraries.

The Road To Mecca will run until Saturday May 5. Tickets cost from R130 to R230.

Book through Computicket or the Fugard Theatre box office on 021 461 4554.