John Kani’s new play set for world premiere

24 February 2014

South African actor, director and playwright John Kani’s new play Missing…, a political thriller about a South African exile whose life is changed forever by the release of Nelson Mandela, will have its world premiere at Cape Town’s Baxter Theatre on Thursday.

It is Tony-award-winning Kani’s first full-length play since his Nothing but the Truth (2002), which received numerous accolades locally and abroad.

“It always feels like a homecoming for me to perform here and in Cape Town,” Kani said in a statement issued by the Baxter Theatre last week. “This is where we launched Nothing but the Truth more than a decade ago.”

The cast features Kani as Robert Khalipa, Susan Danford as his wife Anna Ohlson, and newcomer Buhle Ngaba as their daughter Ayanda, a medical student. Apollo Ntshoko plays Peter Tshabalala, a young comrade and Robert’s assistant in the African National Congress (ANC) office in Stockholm.

Robert has been living in exile in Stockholm for over 30 years with his wife (who has inherited her father’s large electronic and communications company) and daughter Ayanda, who was born there. They are a happy family, but this is all changed by Mandela’s release. South Africa is on the road to democracy. Going home has become a reality. But where is home?

Instead of a celebration, this new situation becomes the catalyst that threatens to break up the Khalipa family. To add insult to injury, Robert is not called on by the ANC to come home and be part of the negotiations. What follows is a plot full of intrigue, lies, backstabbing, conspiracy and political in-fighting. How can the release of Nelson Mandela be the reason for this family to break up?

Kani, Honeyman, Manim

Kani teams up once more with Janice Honeyman (director) and Mannie Manim (lighting designer) to bring this uniquely South African story to life. According to the Baxter, the three have worked together for nearly 30 years, last collaborating on the international hit The Tempest, produced by the Baxter and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Set builder Patrick Curtis and Birrie le Roux, who is responsible for wardrobe, complete the formidable team.

“Working on the script has been like restoring and fine-tuning a classy, classic instrument – it is equally exciting, challenging and exacting,” director Honeyman said. “We are dealing with a very human story – a family in conflict, the foundation of which is political but the content of which is deeply personal.

“There is an ever increasing line of tension in the play that hooks the audience in and finally captivates them in true psychological thriller fashion. With this, his second play, John has achieved a piece of drama that proves to be compelling storytelling and shows a deep empathy and grasp of human nature.”

Accolades

In 1975 Kani, along with Winston Ntshona, received a Tony Award for best actor for Sizwe Banzi Is Dead and The Island, co-written with Athol Fugard and Ntshona.

He holds honorary doctorates from the University of Durban Westville, Rhodes University, the University of Cape Town and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, and in 2005 he received the Order of Ikhamanga – the highest recognition in in South African arts and culture – from then president Thabo Mbeki.

Over the years he has performed in numerous Baxter Theatre productions, including Sizwe Banzi is Dead, The Island, My Children My Africa, Miss Julie, Waiting for Godot, Antigone and Hamlet.

Missing… previews from 27 February to 3 March, opens on 4 March and runs until 29 March, with performances at 8pm nightly and matinees at 2pm.

Baxter Theatre and SAinfo Reporter