Tales of the textile industry

Some of the cast members of Mr Pannekoek and The Factory Girls, are Ikeraam Botha, from Ikie fame, Wadia Samuels, who plays Mo in Waffles and Mo, Abdul Aziz Schroeder, Aneesa Abrahams, Peter Meyer, and Soli Philander.

Athlone entertainer Abdul Aziz Schroeder has teamed up with comedian Soli Philander to co-write and produce Mr Pannekoek and The Factory Girls, which recalls a time when clothing factories put food on the table for countless Cape Flats families.

The production will run at the Joseph Stone Auditorium in Athlone, from Friday October 25 to Monday October 28.

Schroeder hopes the musical will revive a textile industry that he says was all but destroyed by a flood of cheap Chinese imports that has costs jobs and struck a “devastating” blow to the economy.

The musical follows the life of Mr Pannekoek, of Salt River. Over Sunday morning breakfast of pancakes and flapjacks, his mother shares her memories of the good old days in the factory.

After her death, Mr Pannekoek inherits some money, and pursues his dream to start his own clothing factory, giving life to his mother’s memories. And so the adventures of Mr Pannekoek and The Factory Girls begins.

Philander says he was able to explore his own culture and history by working on the production.

“The garment industry was part of a very limited offering of opportunities at entrepreneurship for coloured people in the Western Cape – the major constituency of the labour force that comprised this sector. ‘Factory girls’ had a certain social standing that was boldly expressed in dress, behaviour and attitude, and assimilated into a popular cultural trend and inclination.

“Families survived for generations on the earnings of especially mothers, sisters, aunts, and daughters employed by the industry,” Philander says.

The musical addresses those issues, he says, capturing the humour and pathos of that anxious time, a time when the industry started losing ground to the cheap imports.

“A love story and the spirit of community among the staff and owner of the factory makes for a nostalgic, heartfelt celebration of a particular Capetonian energy, then and now. Sad, tragic even. But celebrating the ‘other’ that is ‘us’.”

Among the cast are Ikie and Waffles and Mo, known for their comedic skits on social media, with more than 150 000 followers, and choreographer and songwriter Lamees Meyer.

Meyer, who is a social entrepreneur and inspirational speaker, says she feels honoured to be part of the production.

“After years of performing in ballet, contemporary modern and hip hop productions, including drama during my youth days, I never thought I’d be back on stage. This may just be my final curtain call with my love for theatre and dance.”

Ikeraam Botha, from Ikie fame, says he didn’t hesitate when offered the chance to be part of the cast.

“This is a major stepping stone into the entertainment industry, and I am hopeful that it will open multiple doors.”

Wadia Samuels, who plays Mo in Waffles and Mo, says it’s been an exciting journey.

“Coming from a background of no formal training has made this experience even more exciting because of all the things we are learning.

“We are very excited to be apart of such an amazing production and we are so ready to show everyone what we can do. Working with the cast has been so rewarding – and not to mention the fun we have together. We are about to show you a whole new side to us that you didn’t even know we had.”

Tickets, at R150 each, are available from House of Rad, opposite Athlone Stadium, or call 021 696 6992 or 073 308 6758.