After many delays due to the COVID 19-pandemic, playwright Terrence McNally’s award-winning Love! Valour! Compassion! opened at The Market Theatre in Johannesburg last week. Lefra Productions proudly announced the 25th-anniversary revival of the hit play in 2020 but was forced to postpone the launch of the production on a number of occasions. What was to be an anniversary production in 2020, will now be a tribute production in 2021 and beyond. Love! Valour! Compassion! is directed by Gregg Pettigrew and produced by Frans Swart and will play in the John Kani at The Market Theatre until 12 December, with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 19:00 and 15:00 on Saturdays and Sundays. To book your tickets, please visit www.LTickets.co.za. For group bookings and more information, kindly phone (011) 815-3000 or send an e-mail to tickets@LTickets.co.za. Love! Valour! Compassion! is presented with the proud support of Ambassador Execudrive, Britz Couriers and Removals, Crown National, the home of Six-Gun Grill, Hollywood Costumes, Lift, RSG, Rockets Man, Sounds Good, Van Loveren Wines and WS Pianos.
“After the many delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, we decided that this year, come hell or high water or Covid, we need to do this play”, says Frans. “Even when we had to postpone the Cape Town run to February next year, we decided to push through and to rehearse this production. The theatre has an energy that nobody understands. Suddenly, we had something to live for. Actors, technicians, theatre staff, publicists, barmen, ushers. I am very proud to say that this production is really a forerunner in getting theatre back on track”
According to Swart, producing a theatre production in South Africa has really become challenging. “In the last 18 months, we here at Lefra became the masters of improvisation.” Lefra planned to open with Love! Valour! Compassion! at Artscape in Cape Town in September. “As you know, when you do a production of this magnitude, you basically plan well in advance.” In April 2021 Lefra reached an agreement with Artscape to play in the Opera. At that stage, theatres could still play to a 50% capacity, and Lefra planned accordingly. When restrictions became stricter and audience numbers were limited to only 50 people, it was decided to postpone. “Can you imagine how the Opera at Artscape will look with 50 patrons in it? And secondly, it is just not economically viable to play for 50 people. Love! Valour! Compassion! is a large production with an even larger budget”, says Frans. During the opening night of LVC, Swart lashed out at the Government for not looking out for theatre in this country. “Not the Arts and Culture Departments of Local, Provincial and National assisted theatre and creative people in this country!”
“We are nevertheless still positive” Frans adds. “We are all theatre people and you will never get us down! This play tugs at the heartstrings as well as provides the audience with ample opportunity for a good laugh as well as a healthy dose of titillation. By turns soul-searching and hilarious, the play sings with the truth about all humans and their interpersonal relationships.” The central theme of this play is friendship and it transcends sexual orientation ensuring that every member of the audience will leave with a clear message, that, “Friendship is everything!”
Eight men confront their lives, loves and friendships over the three successive holiday weekends, at a farmhouse in Dutchess County, New York. Winner of the 1995 Tony Award for Best Play, Love! Valour! Compassion! explores the lives, loves, and fears of eight gay men in the 1990s. Over the course of the summer, the men’s conversations touch on themes of infidelity, flirting, AIDS, skinny-dipping, and questions about life and death. It’s a comedy about some comparatively privileged gay people in a world whose problems are ultimately shared by everyone.
“For me personally, I have always said that Love! Valour! Compassion! may use eight gay men as its vehicle for the story, but it is a play that’s message truly transcends sexual orientation boundaries”, said Gregg Pettigrew, Director of the production. “It is a play that every human being will take a message from and relate to. I am proud to be heading the production that will carry the blazing torch of hope for the South African entertainment industry to get back to work after going through our own doldrums for so many months”.
According to Producer Frans Swart, the themes in Love! Valour! Compassion! are universal. “Difference and unity, creatively entwined, create a vivid portrait, not of gay identity, but of human interaction. McNally breaks down stereotypes by presenting contrasting characters who depict gay men as a group of very different individuals, whilst at the same time illustrating the strong bonds and community connections that develop as a result of outside subjugation. These themes are now more relevant than ever. It is a beautiful love story,” says Swart. “Gregg has done a marvellous job in directing the production, and under his direction, the play sweeps effortlessly along as the characters fall in and out of love, argue, swim, dine, sleep, flirt and talk, which they do especially well!”
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