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“MOFFIE” takes to the stage at Riverside Studios

As London audiences welcomed the world premiere of the stage adaptation of André Carl van der Merwe’s acclaimed novel “MOFFIE,” the anticipation was palpable. ‘Moffie’ is a South African slur for a gay or effeminate man. This adaptation, helmed by director Greg Karvellas and with sound design by Charl-Johan Lingenfelder, ‘MOFFIE’ promised to be a profoundly moving experience.

Lingenfelder, a South African composer and musical director with a career spanning continents and decades, brings a deeply personal touch to the production, drawing from his own harrowing experiences as a gay man conscripted into the apartheid-era South African army.

Lingenfelder’s sound design for ‘MOFFIE’ is not merely an auditory backdrop but a visceral immersion into the psychological and emotional landscapes of its characters. “I mean, we’re sensory beings, and everything we do in life is connected with our senses,” Lingenfelder reflects. “In theatre, we can recreate environments so audiences engage with all their senses. My memories from the army, especially the sounds, inform my work, but it’s the sensitivity and emotionality around forbidden tenderness that I aim to highlight.”

The play’s narrative, set in 1979, delves into the life of a young gay conscript, Nicholas, in a hyper- masculine, homophobic military. For Lingenfelder, this theme resonates deeply with his work on “Kanarie,” a film that depicted his personal story. “Kanarie was closer to home, steeped in music, while ‘MOFFIE’ confronts the harsh realities of military
life. I had to create a completely different palette for this,” he explains. By focusing on the text and era, he ensures the authenticity of the period without alienating contemporary audiences.

Through his sound design, Lingenfelder seeks to convey themes of alienation, acceptance, and the creation of safe spaces for the marginalized. “It’s about creating pockets of safety that are much more beautiful than the world outside,” he notes. This thematic focus on trauma and its unpacking is particularly relevant today, as society grapples with increasing awareness of mental health and the enduring scars of past trauma.

‘MOFFIE’ runs until June 30th at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith.


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