Dead Yellow Sands started out in 2014 with R250, a second-hand suit and a bit of flashlight experimentation – just in case there was load shedding. Since then, the one-man show – written and performed by the long-haired and grey-bearded Graham Weir, of Wynberg, has been completely sold out for nearly every showing.
Graham, a 57-year-old actor, writer and singer, has been in the performance industry for 35 years but Dead Yellow Sands has been his best received work yet. Graham says he is not sure how the show’s popularity grew so quickly since its only promotions were on social media.
“It started with a budget of R250 and a suit that was passed on to me. My friend said ‘I can’t fit into this suit anymore. It’s my lucky suit. Would you like to have it?”
The suit’s luck has even helped the show scoop two, Fleur de Cap awards for best performance in a one-person play and best lighting, which is ironic, since the lighting concept came about as a by-product of trying to figure out how the show would go on through load shedding.
Initially, Graham said, he had only used a flashlight but as the play developed, the lighting became more and more integral to the story-line so a special rig was custom-designed.
The play tells the stories of six different characters.
“It seems to touch people and people relate to the characters very, very much. The characters are all based on people that I know or saw from a distance. It’s a story of people who triumph over adversity.”
One of the stories, about a young boy who sees dolphins being transported to shows in a portable pool, is from his own childhood, Graham said, without letting any spoilers slip.
“One or two are quite comic and one is quite tragic. When I was younger, I wrote a lot of plays, which were darker, but this one touches people more.”
Graham has written about 10 plays but he feels he is best known for his work with the comedic a capella group, Not the Midnight Mass.
“It developed a cult following in the 80s and 90s,” Graham, a founder member of the group, said.
“Not the Midnight Mass came at a time when I hadn’t worked for a long time. I was going through a bit of a dip.”
Dead Yellow Sands was also a saving grace for his career when he wasn’t picking up much work in 2014.
“The funny thing about acting is it goes through phases. There’ll be a period when you are too young to play the father but too old to play the son. And then parts start opening up again. My friend said I’m not going to get any work because ‘it’s only so often that they do Lord of the Rings,’ but I proved him wrong,” Graham said, laughing.
Dead Yellow Sands had its debut at the Alexander Bar, in Cape Town, where it had the highest audience rating for a show in the history of the theatre upstairs. It then moved to the 969 Festival and Wits Theatre, in Johannesburg. Next it was off to the Grahamstown Arts Festival where it played to full houses. Its last festival screening was the Hilton Arts in KwaZulu-Natal.
“For many actors the festival circuit has become very important,” Graham said.
Dead Yellow Sands will be at the Baxter from Monday October 31 until Saturday November 26. Tickets are R110, R90 for seniors or students or R85 for block bookings of 10 or more.
Booking through Computicket.