William Kentridge is prodigious, with a ubiquitous presence throughout the world in almost all art forms – tapestries, prints, drawings, film animation, a 10m-tall steel sculpture in Naples and his largest public work Triumphs and Laments, a 550m-long frieze on the bank of the Tiber River, Rome. He has been exhibited in over 70 major galleries and he is permanently represented in 8, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MAMO and the Tate Modern.
This interview is about none of these as his presence in theatre is equally astounding. At Wits, he was a founding member of The Junction Avenue Theatre Company – actor and set designer. Then with the Handspring Puppet Company, he created theatre and opera pieces that have travelled worldwide.
Progressing from these he has been invited to create, design and direct new operas. He works in massive scale filling the stage with visual multi layered wonders: film animation, puppets, performers and singers, all synchronised in minutiae under his stage direction. Among others he has staged Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria (Monteverdi), Die Zauberflöte (Mozart) and The Nose (Shostakovich). In 2015 his provocative and visually stunning new staging of Berg’s Lulu, premièred at the Met, a co-production with the English National Opera and the Dutch National Opera.
William was born in Johannesburg to a family of lawyers, his father Sir Sydney Kentridge QC, his grandfather a parliamentarian, his mother Felicia Geffen an attorney, her mother the first female advocate. Luckily for SA William broke the mould and became a maestro of all art forms.