The new SABC2 family drama series Melody is set in Athlone in the heart of the Cape Flats. It tells a story of a community battling a host of social issues but above all, given hope and even defined by its love of music. For young Melody (Kim Bowers), music also offers a way out of crushing poverty and the orbit of her abusive, alcoholic father Eric (Abdu Adams, Ian October 2015-2016, in Suidooster, 2015now) when she gets a shot at landing a scholarship, thanks to her skills with the penny whistle. But in entering the world of music, Melody is going to wake a lot of sleeping dogs in her father’s generation.
KEEP IT LOCAL
Athlone-born director and the show’s creator Theo Davids had been working on the idea for Melody with his (nowlate) partner Zulfah Otto Salles since around 2008 and he has cast many of the new talents that he has mentored through Athlone’s Bridgetown Theatre Company. The production also made sure to employ local crew behind the scenes in all capacities and to support local businesses.
But while Melody was telling Athlone’s story, some of the pretend action on the streets became all too real. Series co-producer Cati Weinek reveals, “The community here started a neighbourhood watch and they were on set with us. But in December one of the big gangsters (Rashied Staggie of the Hard Livings gang) was shot in Salt River the night before we were due to film in an area of Athlone called Bokmakierie, and when we arrived to film we had young guys coming to us and warning us, ‘You have to leave. You can’t be here, it’s not safe.’ And all of our film unit assistance guys are local – they also said, ‘Today is not safe.’”
But sometimes humour sprung from the crossover between reality and filming. During the course of the series, Melody will wind up living in a shack. “We had to place neighbourhood security around the park to protect our shack!” she laughs. “It took so much effort to build it and make it look right. It become an asset and then you have to protect it. It was quite fun seeing the responses from the community. They were like, ‘There’s an informal settlement erupting here!’”
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25 March 2020