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The Girl From St Agnes is Showmax’s first original drama, a gripping murder mystery set at a prestigious all-girls boarding school in the Midlands. The star-studded cast includes Tyrone Keogh, named SA’s Sexiest Actor during his time on The Wild; Strictly Come Dancing winner Zakeeya Patel; District 9 actor Robert Hobbs; and former Olympic swimmer Karl Thaning (Dredd).
With private schools starting across South Africa this week, we asked them whether the dark drama reminded them of their own school experiences and what advice they’d give to anyone starting high school this year…
Did ‘The Girl From St Agnes’ remind you of your own school experiences?
Karl: I went to a school that was rich in tradition, and wardrobe and the art department did such a fantastic job of creating that kind of a tradition-rich school. So yes, it certainly does come back.
It’s so weird. I still have nightmares where I’m stuck in my blazer or I can’t find my tie – and I’ve been out of school longer than I was in school. It’s bizarre how affected we are by high school and power and hierarchy and tradition.
Robert: I went to CBC – Christian Brothers College – the only private school in Welkom in the 80s. Right next to us was the Catholic church and on the other side of the Catholic church was the girls’ school, called The Convent of St Agnes, so yes, it resonated with me…
St Agnes is the patron saint of virgins and raped women. I didn’t know that back at school and I certainly didn’t know she was the patron saint of virgins…
Zakeeya: I actually went to an all-girl private Catholic school but St Agnes is so far from my own experience of what school was like. I loved school. I don’t think I was ever sick. I loved all of it.
It’s so different because we didn’t have social media when I was at school. There wasn’t that added pressure or access. It’s an immense pressure that children are under these days, about what they should be achieving, how they should look, what they should wear and how to keep their lives private. The suicide rates at schools are horrifying. High school is a very different place now to what I experienced, which I feel so sad for.
Tyrone: I know this world well. I went to SACS: a very prim and proper all-boys school with loads of tradition and straw hats. So I come from a school very much cut from this cloth. In fact SACS is the oldest school in the country so these schools were cut from my school’s cloth.
But I wasn’t privy to abuse on this scale.
There was that whole macho thing but I was never that guy – I wasn’t a sports person; I was a skateboarder. I didn’t fit into that mould. It was definitely there; I just wasn’t invited.
What advice would you give people starting high school?
Karl: Not that they’d ever listen to me, but question everything.
Be yourself. Hug who you are. Hug the cactus. An American actor said that.
I think more than anything I’d have liked to be more comfortable in my skin and not feel the pressure to crack that joke or laugh at that joke. Being yourself is pretty important, and not pressurising people or giving in to people. That was rife when I was in school. I’m not sure if that’s what it’s like now, or if the kids today are more mature and more knowledgeable with modern technology.
I’m not very good at social media so I can’t imagine what these kids go through today. If I had social media when I was at school, I don’t think it would have been an advantage…
Zakeeya: You can fill your brains with dates and numbers but if you don’t have a connection with yourself and don’t know how to love and honour yourself, you’re in trouble. So the message I’d like other young women and boys to know is that they must work on the relationship with themselves.
Robert: Be true to yourself, to your uniqueness. High school days are such awkward days for so many of us that we try to be something different or whatever we think is the status quo. But what makes us wonderful human beings is to be true to ourselves. Just be yourself.
Tyrone: You don’t have to conform. You don’t have to fit in. You don’t have to follow the crowd. It might be hard and people might take the piss out of you but your own personal integrity is worth more than fitting in with everyone else. Peer pressure is real and bullying is real but there are people out there you can talk to.
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