By BARBARA HOLLANDS
Cherae Halley had an inkling drama would be central to her life when she petitioned her primary school to provide extra-curricular drama classes, but her goal was crystallised after her father, late deputy mayor of East London, Desmond Halley, saw her on stage in a Selborne/ Clarendon musical.
Years down the line, audiences can see this dynamic former East Londoner perform a lead role in Scorched at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.
Directed by 2016 Standard Bank Young Artist for theatre Jade Bowers, Scorched starts tomorrow and is set to be a stand-out show at this year’s festival.
“It started at St Anne’s Primary School when a group of friends and I signed a petition asking for drama classes and begged a teacher to teach us after school,” said Halley.
Later, at Clarendon Girls’ High School, Halley, 28, took drama as a subject and was cast as the lead in District 6 The Musical.
“That was when I realised I could do this and wanted to do this.
“My dad saw me perform a week before he died.
“His death was a shock to the entire city but also in our home, but his friend told me that after seeing me on stage he said I should study drama. So that is what I did.”
A decade later, Halley has a Masters degree in the dramatic arts from Wits University and is an actor, theatre-maker, lecturer and applied theatre facilitator.
Another fortuitous interest sparked in her childhood was an “obsession” with how deaf people communicate and are communicated with.
“At primary school we had our athletics day with a deaf school and I was always intrigued that we had a gun to start our races but they had a flag.
“I took sign language as a subject at Wits, along with performance studies.”
For the past six years, Halley has been a member of Drama for Life Playback Theatre, which uses the arts for social transformation and educates young deaf and hearing adults about sex abuse, HIV/Aids, human rights and LGBTI issues.
She also lectures courses in drama in education and theatre as activism at Wits University in the Masters of arts in applied drama programme.
In Scorched, a family drama about the atrocity of war and its resulting displacement, Halley plays a woman who journeys to her mother’s war-torn Middle Eastern homeland.
The two-and-a-half-hour play signifies her most powerful role yet.
“It is a play about the consequences of war, which is a deep interest of mine.
“It shows how family and heritage can get displaced and torn apart in places of conflict.
“What is beautiful is that the entire cast is made up of people of colour and because we are coloured, the question of who we are runs deep.”
l Scorched can be seen at the Rhodes Box Theatre tomorrow at 8pm, Saturday at noon and 8pm, and on Sunday at noon and 8pm.