With loads of productions headed for the National Arts Festival (NAF) Fringe Programme this year, Latoya Newman takes a look at some of the emerging writers and directors who are worth looking out for.
WISEMAN Mncube (Giving Birth to My Father): This young actor/ playwright began to bleep on the local arts radar when he scooped an award for his performance in Bra Six Two at the Musho Theatre Festival in 2012.
Mncube continued with acting, writing and directing, with his work featured at a number of community-based theatre festivals and arts centres. He was then identified by the Performing Arts Network of South Africa in KZN as a worthy participant for their Director’s Development Project, through which he staged a play that won the Audience Runner-up Award at the Musho Fest in January this year.
Now renamed Giving Birth to My Father, and having been slightly tweaked, Mncube is taking this play to the 2014 NAF Fringe Programme.
The play begins on the day that a young woman (Ayanda Fali) is about to be freed from jail. She has survived 18 years of imprisonment by using her imagination, but doesn’t know what awaits her outside.
“Not much has been changed except for a small part of the storyline… I was very happy with the feedback after Musho,” he said.
Giving Birth to My Father marks Mncube’s third work after Weeping Candle and The Chameleon.
“I’m not necessarily leaning more towards writing or acting at this stage, I just want to continue doing both.”
The play stages at Masonic Back at the NAF from July 3 to 13.
After the NAF, Mncube will stage The Chameleon in Port Shepstone and he hopes to stage Giving Birth to My Father later.
Musawenkosi and Bongumusa Shabalala (Ezekiel Dhlamini Musical): Identical twin brothers Bongumusa and Musawenkosi Shabalala stick out when it comes to emerging theatre in Durban.
The brothers began coming up the ranks through the community theatre group, the uMlazi-based Umsindo Productions. With the help of development initiatives like Twist Projects, and with mentors like Neil Coppen and Jerry Pooe, Umsindo Productions is becoming a recognisable name in theatre.
In 2012 the group won an NAF Standard Bank Ovation Encore Award for To Be Like This Rock and they were invited to participate on the NAF Arena Programme last year, when they staged Secrets from the Drawer.
The brothers continue to write and direct under the Umsindo banner, and have even determined to establish an Arts Centre in uMlazi over the next five years.
Tonight spoke to Musawenkosi about the group’s Ezekiel Dhlamini Musical, which will stage on the Fringe Programme.
He explained that the musical was inspired by the musical King Kong (Todd Matshikiza and Pat Willams), and also based on the life of Dhlamini.
“We have written our own script and it’s all new music. Our script focuses more on Ezekiel Dlhamini, a man who was a victim of circumstances. We want our piece to speak to the issues that South African legends face even today. They fall on hard times, they die poor. And this is not just in sport, but the arts too,” he explained.
Ezekiel Dhlamini Musical stages at the city hall from July 9 to 13. It will thereafter stage at Wushwini Arts Centre in KwaNgcolosi, near Hillcrest, on July 27.
Prima Donna: It’s not often that emerging writers and directors opt to restage the classics, but for the young Brenda Lee Cele, it’s these pieces that drive her passion.
It wasn’t long ago that she directed a staging of Athol Fugard’s Boesman and Lena in Pietermaritzburg, before staging her Prima Donna – inspired by Eugène Ionesco’s The Bald Prima Donna – in Durban. She will now take the play to the NAF.
“I wanted to come up with something that would make people laugh at themselves… My adapta-tion is based on a South African context. We use Zulu, Afrikaans and English,” she explained.
The absurdist play mirrors the ridiculousness of human interactions as we observe two couples from different cultures.
“Because of the characters people can relate to the play… Right now I’m more attracted to the classics, but I don’t like keeping things as they are. I find ways to make them different and also bring out who I am in those shows.”
Prima Donna stages at Masonic Front from July 9 to 13.
• Visit www.nationalarts festival.co.za