A Freewheelers Theatre production
Performance Date: Thursday 3 December 2015 at 7.30pm

I pitched the idea for a Freewheelers production based on the life of Nelson Mandela three years ago. There is much to report now. Rehearsals are well under way as we head towards a packed autumn with three months of twice weekly sessions. Casting is of course complete and includes two novelties: one is in the form of an outside actor, Ashley Phillips, whom we have incited to join us to play Young Mandela (from boyhood to prison); the other takes the form of our Artistic Director, Brandon McGuire, who has started rehearsing his part – his first stage role for Freewheelers!

The music for the Finale of Act 2 has been composed, produced and delivered. Our choreographer, Andrea Atkinson, has started putting the ‘show stopper’ together. Internationally renowned disabled artist Rachel Gadsden has begun work, and will shortly be filmed by our very own Gary Thomas. The first of the video inserts for projection has been shot and edited.

Our team of wonderful volunteers and staff who are involved in the show are: Sue Bryan, Annette Davidson, Jenny Leather, Pete Higson. They will perform in the two-act play and support various members of the cast as needed. The players for AMANDLA! are drawn from Tuesdays at Freewheelers – the dance group and the media group – making a large cast. From the media group, five or six members have taken up African drumming in addition to playing various stage roles.

I have decided to ask three people to play the role of Nelson Mandela: they are Richard Watson, dancer, who performs Spirit Mandela; Ashley Phillips, Young Mandela; Terri Winchester, Old Mandela. Ashely’s work focuses very much on Act One, as the boy becomes a man, becomes a Freedom Fighter. Terri picks up with life on Robben Island and the amazing 27 years in prison.

We are using sign language to embellish scenes. The Company sit on either side of the stage throughout, other than when they are involved of course in the action. They interact sometimes through speech, sometimes whispers, sometimes signing.

We play to our strengths, so Luke Tye will sing the Finale. Terri is our lead actress. Combining video with both dance and drama is Freewheeler stage culture.

We also have plans to create a flashmob… but we’re not going to say any more about that so as to keep a surprise up our sleeve!

In the long term we plan to tour the play to school and small theatre venues but begin in December with a full two-act performance with the whole dance group and cast of actors. It promises to be a great Freewheeler occasion.

Chris Haydon
Writer/Director for AMANDLA! and also Freewheelers’ Media Tutor