“Don’t take things so seriously. Play around. Always be kind.” ~ Willem Esterhuyse, actor, writer, director.
His career is growing towards the heat level of his hometown, Upington, but not as parched as the lands of the Northern Cape. He is a creator. An actor. A director. A writer.
Willem Esterhuyse is his name, art is his core, and stands by it.
“I have done many different things in my career, from stage handing, to stage managing, to acting, to dancing, to making a fool of myself. But most importantly, I stood behind the art I create and I don’t make any apologies for it.”
Armed with a postgraduate degree in Drama from Kovsies, Willem Esterhuyse is one of the “known knowns” of Mangaung theatre. In 2016 he debuted as a director of a play called Steke — which he also wrote — and won an award for his work.
The production subsequently toured the country, performing in spaces such as the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, the Vavasati Women’s Festival held at the State Theatre in Pretoria, the Cape Town Fringe Festival, as well as locally at the Free State Arts Festival.
This was Willem’s directorial debut and possible highlight of his career. He is not really sure which production is by far his apex moment—an uncertainty which can only be a privilege of a decorated artist. On the performance side, though, he regards ERA, a physical theatre piece by Mark Antony Dobson performed locally and in Cape Town, as his highlight.
Paging through his profile, he has Die Ongelooflike Avonture van Andries Anders and its sequel Andries Anders en die Legende van Dawie Jonavis. Both were written and directed by C.W. Laten and Nic Beukes respectively.
There’s a lot he has done for himself and the game, which he is appreciated and respected for.
This is why when Love, Crime and Johannesburg director Masedi Manenye contemplated his starting line-up, Willem’s name came up as a striking force.
“I play Bokkie Levine in Love, Crime and Johannesburg. Bokkie is a horny, greedy, sexist, racist Jewish businessman,” he says, before adding rather spicily, “I hope I wasn’t type-casted.”
“Well, who wouldn’t love playing the role of Bokkie? It’s juicy and gross. I just struggle with the Johannesburg accent; I need to watch some more videos on YouTube to grasp it perfectly. What you can expect from me when the play shows is lots of sweat, anxiety and probably booze backstage. Don’t tell the director.”
CPT-based theatre practitioners Wessel Pretorius, Tara Louise Notcutt, and Albert Pretorius are some of his industry gods. “All of them are so young and creative, and it makes me happy to see the incredible works that these young minds are creating. It gives me hope for myself and my own art.”
Indeed, the fact that creative young minds such as Willem Esterhuyse have taken up their position in the industry means there is hope for our arts. For our city. For our narrative. For everyone that’s joining us on 20 March 2018 at PACOFS when Love, Crime and Johannesburg shows.
PICTURE CREDIT: Willem Esterhuyse