Young theatre stars of future shine

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TO 066 Playroom - Apr 2014 Ruphyn Coudyzer IN FULL FLIGHT: Aphiwe Livi in a scene from The Playroom.

It was a night to remember at The Market last Wednesday, a significant date celebrated around the world as Shakespeare’s birth date.

Or that’s how it felt to artistic director James Ngcobo, who was inspired by the young Brett Goldin bursary contestants earlier this month.

Kate Liquorish, 30, and Tony Bonani Miyambo, 26, clinched the 2014 Brett Goldin Bursary Fund awards at an event at the Market two weeks ago, five days ahead of the eighth anniversary of the young actor’s brutal murder over the Easter weekend in 2006.

Liquorish and Miyambo were among the six finalists selected from a shortlist of 26, out of nearly 90 applications received from all over South Africa, through a rigorous audition process over three days. The other four finalists were Francis Chouler, Buhle Ngaba, Zondwa Njokweni and Daniel Richards.

But that’s where the idea of celebrations started for the inspired artistic director. There were all these young performers with Shakespeare monologues in hand. Last weekend, Ngcobo called Dorothy-Ann Gould, part of the Goldin bursary team and a Shakespeare specialist, and asked her to put together a birthday celebration for April 23, the day that the world’s best regarded playwright is celebrated.

“I had only an hour-and-a-half for rehearsals,” says Gould, but what struck those who were there for the celebrations last Wednesday, including the debut performance of The Playroom, was the diversity of the players, young and old.

The two current winners were both given another shot at performing their monologues while Omphile Molusi, who was the first recipient of the bursary in 2007, started the evening with his slant on Shakespeare.

And that’s what turned this into such a theatrically enchanted evening. It wasn’t only the magnificence of the master’s words, but also these young South Africans who made it their own. It’s glorious to see such talent and with Gould’s extraordinary flair, she added a touch of experience with the sublime Camilla Waldman, who teaches rather than performs these days (bring her back please!), as well as some of the Goldin contestants and a few Lab students to heighten the luminous experience. What a delight to feel that frisson of fire run through an audience because of the way our performers sparkle and shine.

As if this wasn’t enough for the night, it was also a celebration of development work by The Market with the launch of the 2013 Zwakala Festival winner, The Playroom. Written and directed by Thandolwethu Mzembe, he will also be rewarded with a mentorship by director Janice Honeyman when she travels to the Market with John Kani’s latest work, Missing, shortly.

The setting is what draws you into the fictional world of The Playroom (which can be seen in the Barney Simon Theatre until Sunday), suggesting an almost Victorian playroom, but nothing about the people gathered together is childish.

Three mentally disturbed individuals are placed in what might appear to be a playroom as they start playing out the reality of their lives. There’s also a threatening male nurse whose evil intent as he preys on the vulnerable can be quite chilling.

The performances from the Lab students (still inexperienced) were innovative, but the play’s intent is more impressive than its content. Philip Dikotla’s Skierlik can perhaps stand as an example. He first staged it four years ago but has been working on it constantly since. It paid off and finally he grabbed a Fleur du Cap award last month, and has been invited as one of four works to play at the new Afda Theatre opening next month as well as participate in the international Afro Vibes in Holland and Britain later this year.

But please, someone at the theatre must take responsibility for the editing of the programmes. The new format is smart and sassy but the content and language is sometimes appalling.

Yet again, on a night of theatre that showcased those who are shooting for the stars as well as those starting out with The Market Theatre Laboratory, a vehicle for change and skills development, the value of young voices telling their stories is sweet honey for the soul.

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