A SOUTH AFRICAN classic comes to the Durban stage this weekend as the University of KZN’s Hexagon Theatre presents Woza Albert! at the Seabrooke’s Theatre.
Director Peter Mitchell said the play is being staged partly to mark 20 years of democracy in South Africa and in remembrance of the late writer/playwright and director, Barney Simon, who died in 1995. Simon created the piece with Mbongeni Ngema and Percy Mtwa.
Woza Albert! asks what would happen if Christ (Morena) came back to 1980’s apartheid South Africa.
Mitchell said the theatre felt this piece would serve well in a time of reflection: “We thought that at this stage of 20 years of democracy in South Africa it would be a good time to look back at apartheid, where we come from and what was going on at that time. Woza Albert! is more of a satire than a piece of protest theatre. It exposes apartheid for the atrocity that it was… It’s about reflecting back and saying let’s see how far we have come.”
Mitchell said the play is also a “dynamic and riveting reminder about why we are voting”.
A high-energy piece like Woza Albert! requires skilful performers and in this instance it’s TQ Zondi and Mpilo Nzimande, who play a range of ordinary characters on the street.
“The cast are both former students of the University of KwaZulu-Natal who left the varsity a few years ago and have since been involved in a range of productions. They are both up-and-coming actors who have a remarkable rapport together. Their energy, flexibility and portrayal of a range of South African characters is incredibly remarkable,” said Mitchell.
He said using the elements of theatre established by Jerzy Grotowski and Peter Brook, and combining them with South African township theatre, the creators of the original piece evolved a piece of theatre that has stood the test of time and still stands as one of the best examples of modern South African theatre.
“Bringing Woza Albert! to the stage as we celebrate 20 years of democracy reminds us of the tragic lunacy that was apartheid, as well as the continued search for compassionate, intelligent and humane leadership. This production hopes to recreate a theatrical period in our history, as well as look back from a new perspective at what changed the face of ‘poor theatre’ worldwide.”