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‘Itsoseng’ township protest play marks the debut for Market Laboratory actors!

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The cast of Itsoseng are electrifying on stage. PICTURE: MPHO KHWEZI
LAST week, Itsoseng debuted at The Market Theatre.

Tonight caught up with Lesedi Job, a talented young director and Market Theatre Laboratory alumni, to shed light on the production.

She says: “The Market Theatre incorporated me as part of their incubation programme and signed me as the director of the production. At the beginning of the year, I directed a Mike van Graan play, When Swallows Cry.”

Aside from the latter production enjoying sold-out performances, it also received standing ovations.

Itsoseng was enacted by Omphile Molusi a decade ago. The play is set in a township in the North-West Province that was embroiled in service delivery protests. Given the current state of flux in SA’s political climate, it’s a theme that remains relevant.

Job adds, “A lot of what we have done is taken the one-man show done by Omphile and we have opened it up to having seven people in the cast.”

As for deciding on how much scope to give to an ensemble cast, she says, “As the director, you could read the script as many times as you wanted beforehand. I imagined how I would reconstruct it, what I would pick up from the story and assigned certain roles to the actors. Then I sat in rehearsal and read the script over and over.

“I basically edited it and listened to what conversations were possible, decided on what we could blow up and what we couldn’t really blow up – and looked at how we could still keep the integrity of the story.

“For me, it has been a bit of a challenge, as you don’t want to lose the essence of the story and the style of narration and storytelling that Omphile so beautifully produced in the original.”

She couldn’t stop singing the praises of the cast too.

Job raves: “The cast is made of quite a young group of actors. A lot of them are graduates from the Market Laboratory. They may not have a lot of experience, with some of them making their professional debut here at the Market, but they are very talented and full of energy and fire.”

Talking about the set, she notes, “It is designed by Hailey Kingston. We went for a derelict shopping complex look. Imagine a shopping complex that had burnt down and aged over the years and what that would look like now. We took that space and, in it,
played out the world of Itsoseng.”

With Itsoseng now a set-work in high schools, she says, “It is for sixth-language English speakers because the play has a lot of Setswana. Even in the writing of the play, Omphile’s use of the English language is not as formal as first-language English; obviously it makes the language more conversational.”

About the target audience, Job says: “Anything that deals with South Africa is for everybody.”

And while she loves being in the director’s chair, she also enjoys the rush of performing and plans to keep a foothold in both camps.
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