8 APRIL 1999
Out of Africa and in to BallymahonLongford students' show tells the personal story of a journey from South Africa to LongfordBy SEAN MAC CONNELL
The sounds of ethnic African music will be heard in Ballymahon, Co Longford for three days next month when the Transition Year students of the Mercy Secondary School stage a show called My Journey.
The show was written and will be produced by South African-born Anica Louw, who is the artist in residence at the school near her own ballet school and theatre.
All the Transition Year students will be involved in the production, designing the sets, the tickets and all the administration.
Earlier this week, Anica explained that she had always wanted to tell what it was like to grow up as a white person in South Africa.
"It was one of the most isolated places in the world and we were denied outside contact with the real world. There was no television or other external influences," she said.
"We were also very regimented. That is why in the show all the whites are dressed in stiff and starched uniforms, the uniforms we used to wear," she said.
"The contrast between that starched and scrubbed look and the easy, colourful way the Africans dressed was astonishing and sticks with me to this day," she said.
Anica lived in South Africa and studied theatre at college and taught Afrikaans. She met her future husband, Philip Dawson, when he visited South Africa.
In the mid-1970s her thirst to learn about the rest of the world sent her on a voyage of discovery and 20 years ago she came to visit Philip in Dublin and married and settled here.
Philip runs a dairy farm in Leagan, Co Longford, and it was there Anica set up her ballet school and theatre where she teaches people from all over the country and abroad at the Shawbrook School of Ballet.
"I decided to take a short time out and it was during that time I decided to write My Journey. It is autobiographical but I think people will enjoy it," she said.
She said the show starts with Anica, aged three, taking ballet classes from her teacher, Miss Broder. It charts the rest of her time in Africa during the troubled apartheid years.
"I used authentic African music which is wonderful and the boere musiek or farmers' music which I heard as a child. The students in Ballymahon love it," she said.
"I create a window on my former life and I want people to see how it was for me then as I grew up," she said.
Anica has seen many changes since she came to Ireland over 20 years ago and not all of them are to her liking.
"I came here for the relaxed pace of life, the friendly ways of the people and the lack of commercialism. It was a very safe country then," she said.
"I fear the Celtic Tiger has caught up with us and it has changed dramatically in the time I have been here," she said.
The show will be staged in the Backstage Theatre, Longford, on Monday 17th, Tuesday 18th and Wednesday 19th May. The telephone number of the theatre is 043-47888 and the school 090-232267.
© The Irish Times