Seminal South African theatre returns to stage

24 June 2015

Celebrating Athol Fugard’s 83rd birthday and commemorating the 20th anniversary of the death of Barney Simon are two classics of South African theatre – The Island and Woza Albert!, both featuring at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown from 2 to 12 July.

The creatively reworked versions starring up-and-coming new talents Mpilo Nzimande and TQ Zondi are presented by the Hexagon Theatre Company.

The Island

The hardhitting play by Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona is reworked for a new audience.

The play revolves around John and Winston, two prisoners on Robben Island who are bound by ideology, proximity, shackles and a deep affection. As they rehearse Antigone for the prison concert, John learns that his release is imminent; Winston is a lifer. This classic South African play by balances hope and despair as it exposes the depths of cruelty and inhumanity while affirming the dignity and courage of the human spirit.

“But just remember this, brother, nobody laughs forever! There’ll come a time when they’ll stop laughing, and that will be the time when our Antigone hits them with her words.”

Woza Albert!

Woza Albert! is one of the plays for which South African theatre is best known internationally. Its style of storytelling has inspired and influenced theatre companies around the world, and it remains one of the most vibrant examples of satirical anti-apartheid South African theatre.

It demonstrates innovation and creativity during a seminal period of theatre in this country.

This classic of South African theatre asks what would happen if Christ (Morena) came back to 1980s apartheid South Africa. The show is primarily a satire that highlights the absurdities of apartheid and displays the talents of two dextrous actors, who play a range of ordinary characters on the street.

Directed by Peter Mitchell, the production is a high-energy explosion of creativity and humour with a dark edge as Morena’s life is relived in an apartheid context.

Bringing Woza Albert! to the stage honours the creative genius of Simon as South Africa celebrates 21 years of democracy, reminding us of the tragic lunacy that was apartheid, as well as the continued search for compassionate, intelligent and humane leadership. This production looks back from a new perspective at what changed the face of Poor Theatre worldwide.

Source: National Arts Festival