Liefling the Musical with Zak Hendrikz

When I was younger, my parents took us to theatre all the time and I suppose I got a bit blasé about it but now that I’m older, I know we mustn’t take things for granted and I cherish the opportunity to go to the theatre. Each and every performance has something unique and special  – something beautiful.  Liefling was beautiful from start to finish.
The last time I chatted to Zak Hendrikz he was in I Have Life, the story of Alison Botha who was brutally raped and disembowelled by two attackers in 1994 – and how she survived and triumphed.  Zak played one of the rapists and I was so impressed with his performance that I had to meet him and when I did I found out that he in fact is really nice, and a very talented actor.  So I couldn’t wait to see him again when I found out he would be in Liefling, the first Afrikaans musical to be held at the large venue the Teatro at Montecasino.
Let me start off by saying that Liefling is going to be a smash hit. If you haven’t got your tickets already, you’d better get them quickly! (click here to book)

In a turbulent world of loadshedding, crime, corruption, and particularly today’s story of the resignation (forced?) of the underqualified or unqualified CEO of the SABC Ellen Tshabalala, Liefling is a breath of fresh air. It also proudly announces  “Geen Load Shedding by Liefling – die musiekblyspel; Montecasino Teatro. They have enough backup power to ensure the show goes on. 
I’m a first language English speaker, but my father is an English / Afrikaans translator. Rather shamefacedly I admit to the fact that when I start talking Afrikaans, people respond to me in English. But I love the language with its picturesque descriptive way of saying things, and I listen to it as often as I can. So what a privilege it was to attend the opening night of Liefling and sit in the audience for the top performers in their field in the wonderful language of Afrikaans doing what they love!  Liefling is not only for Afrikaners.
The production was excellent with  smooth and fast scene changes and sets, and it was the first time I’ve seen the legendary Sonja Herholdt live too.
You may have seen Liefling The Movie a few years back, which featured Bobby van Jaarsveld, and now he is back in the role of Jan on stage.  Liza Bronner stars as Liefling.
The story is the classic ‘boy meets girl, loses her, but meets her in the end.’
Zak Hendrikz stars as Liefling’s brother Kobus and he answered some questions for us.
This is such a different role to the last one I saw you in where you played in I Have Life – Alison’s story.  What’s it like coming from such a hateful character to a story all about love? Kobus seems like a bit of a troubled guy and he carries a kind of pain – and love changes Melanie as well. Any tricks that you can share that you use to bring that across as well as you do?

Thank you for the compliment Gaynor. As an actor you need to be as versatile as possible.  Through a lot of hard work and experience I have taught myself to adapt and grow as a performer.  For me to go from a hateful character like Frans du Toit  in I HAVE LIFE to that of a romantic lead as Kobus in LIEFLING, is something as a performer I love to do. As an actor to go into the psyche of different characters is not only exciting but a huge challenge.  Especially when the characters are so removed as these two characters I have portrayed recently.  There are not tricks in order to bring your character to life.  Rather to commit yourself to the role, regardless if you relate to the character’s personally or actions and just play the truth.
What was it like playing alongside legends such as Sonja Herholdt, Cobus Venter and all the other stars?

Zak with Cobus Venter and Edrien Erasmus (source Zak Hendrikz)
Sonja and I have walked a long journey together.  My mom and dad where varsity friends with Sonja, and I remember playing at Sonja’s house when I was a little boy.  I haven’t seen Sonja in years.  So when I heard that she would be playing my mother in LIEFLING, I was over the moon.  Sonja is an incredible human being that is always cheerful and giving and adds a lot to this production.  Working with my fellow colleagues like Cobus Venter, Nadia Beukes, Edrien Erasmus, Marleee vd Merwe and Bobby van Jaarsveld is always a pleasure.  I have worked with all these brilliant performers at some point in my career, and working with them again is like one big family reunion.
There’s nothing quite like musical theatre to lift the spirits! And I heard that the cast of The Rocky Horror Show  which is playing in the Pieter Toerien theatre came to see you. That must have been quite an experience and wow! What a fabulous time it is in South African theatre that we have two such incredible shows playing in the same complex.  Do you feel the same playing to someone like Brendan van Rhyn or to the average Joe?

It is always daunting to know when your fellow performers come and watch a production.  We as performers instinctively criticize, whether it be positive or negative.  Through critique we grow as artist because with observation we judge and then learn from others mistakes, or their brilliance to become better performers.  So yes, there is more a sense of pressure when your colleagues come and watch to that of a normal audience, but when you know you are doing a killer job, then it is more exciting than daunting, because you can showcase why you got the role in the first place.
I personally don’t believe that Liefling is only for Afrikaans audiences, after all I myself am an English speaker and I loved it, and I saw a friend of mine in the audience, Chris Avant Smith, who also loved it. But whilst I was there it struck me that I am so glad for Afrikaans speakers that there is  something for them.  I may be barking up the wrong tree but I think it’s possible that Afrikaners feel sidelined as a culture in today’s South Africa and when we met previously you told me that although most of the Teatro’s audience was Afrikaans, they had never had an Afrikaans show there.   Do you think there’s a resurgence in Afrikaans theatre? How have people responded?

Theatre in South-Africa has become very unpredictable.  Some producers use the same gimmicks as previous productions that made their shows a success, but when they try and do it again it fails.  The only genre in my opinion that has a loyal following in South-Africa, be it theatre, film or TV is that of the Afrikaans market.  I believe that over the years producers have noticed that and it is a safer option for them to do something in Afrikaans than gambling on a new project that might fail.  So in a sense there has been a rebirth in the Afrikaans market, and yes, especially the musical theatre industry.  This year alone we had 3 huge musicals in Afrikaans in Gauteng alone, whereas in the past there would only be one or two during the course of the year.  The Afrikaans market will stay loyal to its language whether they feel side-lined or not, when they enjoy a production like LIEFLING, audiences will flock from all over the country in order to come and support. The proof is in the pudding, LIEFLING is a massive success with sold out performances, and this is the first time in history that Monte Casino Theatro has put on a Afrikaans show in this venue.
Do you have a favourite scene or part of the musical? I really enjoyed the piece you sang with Cobus Venter – as well as the dancing!

I wouldn’t say that there is a specific scene or moment in the show that I enjoy more than the next.  I really enjoy the production as a whole and believe that this is a top quality production.  But it is really exciting for me to be playing a character where I can sing.  I haven’t been in a production where I have had the opportunity to sing as much as I do in this show.  It was a daunting thought that I would be exposed to a genre that I am not absolutely confident in.  I know my strengths as an actor and dancer, but this was new territory for me.  But I am blessed that I have had the opportunity to challenge myself in this field, and am thoroughly enjoying it.
You’re a busy guy! After this you’ll be in Ballade Vir ‘n Enkeling asGavin Greeff . He’s also a bit of a powerful, manipulative type of person. Is that role more about a ‘darker’ side?

Indeed.  Gavin Greeff is definitely not your average nice guy. The Gavin that I am portraying is also quite far removed from the previous Gavin Greeff that was seen in the series.  It is always exciting to play those characters, more meat on the bone as they say.  Do not want to give away to many details about the character at this point, don’t want to spoil the movie.  You will have to go and watch it for yourself to see what Gavin is up to in this new version of Ballade.
Tell me about your other pursuits – you do farming as well as make music videos

I haven’t been doing music videos for a while now, I suppose I wanted to challenge myself to see if I was capable of doing it.  Making music videos is not something that I would give up doing yet, but my path has steered into other directions at the moment.   I do direct about two productions a year which is definitely one of my other big passions. But this year I have been blessed with amazing opportunities in the acting field and I feel that I have to channel my energies into that direction at the moment.  And yes, I do own a farm. We specialize in miniature goats and donkeys on the farm. The farm is situated between Randfontein and Carltenville in the West Rand.  Even speaking about it, it still feels strange to me.  If you would have told me 4 years ago that this would happen to me, I would have laughed in your face.  It is funny how one’s life can be steered into a different direction in an instant.  Once again, I am blessed with the opportunities that has been given to me and knowing that I am a BOER-ACTOR that specialize in donkeys and Stanislavski is quite unique.

Book your tickets for Liefling here, but be fast – there aren’t many left! 

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Writer, transcriber, proofreader, editor, lover of the arts.

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