Contagious is a theatre company based in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa. It brings together the talents of three critically acclaimed theatre makers, Jenine Collocott, James Cairns and Taryn Bennett with long-time Fringe producers Simon and Helen Cooper. In their own right they all have had work shown internationally in Europe, the US, the UK and Australia. Contagious produces independent fringe theatre that brings the creative freedom, simplicity and energy of the festival circuit to mainstream audiences.
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Named one of Cosmopolitan magazine’s fun fearless females, Jenine is the Artistic Director of Contagious Theatre. She studied theatre creation under master pedagogue Giovanni Fusetti at his school Helikos in Florence, Italy. Her production Making Mandela won the 2016 Naledi for Best Youth Production and was most recently selected as part of the Assitej World Congress Main Programme. Much of her work has travelled internationally, namely Dirt (Official selection Fringe World, Perth and the Brighton Festival); Sunday Morning (Official selection Edinburgh Festival); A Day in the Desert (Sold out tour in California).
Jenine is an acclaimed director and designer and has been nominated for a number of awards, namely; best director and lighting designer for Sunday Morning at the Naledi Theatre Awards; Best design and director for The Snow Goose at the Fleur du Caps and the Naledi awards respectively; The Handspring Puppet Company Award for best design for High Diving. She has won Ovation Awards for High Diving, A Day in the Desert and Making Mandela.
Named on of the Mail & Guardians top young South Africans, James Cairns has performed and written nationally and internationally for both stage, film and television. His short story Ossewa Mulaudzi has been translated into three languages. His performance work over the years has included South African classics (Pale Natives), Shakespeare (Hamlet and A Comedy of Errors), international festival hits (The Three Little Pigs, Dirt, El Blanco), mask work (The Snow Goose), soapies (Rhythm City), action (Strikeback, Donkerland), period work (Sie Weiss Alles) amongst others.
He is generally cast in comedic roles and brings a sensitivity and inner life to them that has impressed audiences and reviewers alike. His comedy improv work with Jittery Citizens and Shakespeare improv with The Framework are also well loved by audiences. James is a popular fringe artist at the National Arts Festival and his theatre work has also been seen in Australia, the UK and the Netherlands.
Taryn is a theatre-maker based in Johannesburg. As a graduate of Rhodes University’s Drama Department her work showcases the physical nature of her training. She has performed for TV and stage and is a regular at the National Arts Festival. Audiences will remember such festival hits as The Snow Goose, Doctor Colliinger’s Funeral Service, Kaput and Sie Weiss Alles. Taryn performed nationally for both Ubom and FTH:K theatre companies to critical and audience acclaim and in 2015 she worked on twenty-six episodes of the children’s TV series Silly Seasons. Taryn is a member of Johannesburg-based Shakespeare company, Framework where she has played Gertrude, Ophelia and other parts in their unique productions of Hamlet.
SIMON & HELEN COOPER
Simon and Helen Cooper owned and ran the Kalk Bay Theatre from 2003 till 2014. This renovated old NGK church was designed to be exactly what a quaint sea-side theatre should be. They brought in local and international theatre, dance and music to Kalk Bay and were a cultural pillar in that community. In August 2014 when they “retired” to focus on their theatre producing and to be free to take theatre to other venues and festivals all over the country.
In 2009, the formation of KBT Productions marked the expansion of their production activities followed with notable successes in “London Road”, “The Snow Goose”, and “A Man and a Dog” among many others. In 2017 Simon and Helen joined forces with the powerfully creative and innovative trio of Jenine Collocott, Taryn Bennett and James Cairns to form Contagious Theatre with the aim of creating a theatre-making house that covers all aspects of theatre from learning to performance and direction.