A Human Being Died That Night

It’s a mixed bag to start the year off, with Agreed, Expectant and Colored Museum at The Market. New artistic director James Ngcobo is determined to keep it that way. He wants variety, as wide a constituency as possible and performers to participate in and engage with the many stories coming from this country, but also those from beyond.

“We need new narratives,” he says. He’s keen to attract emerging young writers and young artists.

Ngcobo is a man who embraces all the arts with dance and music strong contenders.

If you haven’t seen the work of Gregory Maqoma, Four Seasons is the perfect starting point, depicting destruction and deterioration of the human mind towards us, towards life, towards each other and towards Earth; it embraces the beauty this planet provides. It is about giving hope to generations to come.

With eight dancers and four musicians dressed stylishly in Black Coffee, (February 25 to March 9), Maqoma allows the seasons to shimmer to tell a story of despair yet finally hope.

In April, Paul Slabolepszy returns to the glorious main stage with a production first staged in the early 1990s, Pale Natives. The play focuses on the surviving clan of white males in South Africa, with the imminent changeover of government as a backdrop.

It’s a personal favourite from his repertoire, but one Ngcobo has also been keen to bring back. Slabolepszy, who starred in the first production, relates the personal angst of his 40-something male characters who are faced with a world they don’t know. There’s nothing as scary as the unfamiliar and change.

Combining pathos, satire and humour, he tells us their particular story. As with the first play, Bobby Heaney will again direct but with a few years having passed, a new cast is on the cards.

First time around it was Slab, the late Bill Flynn, Danny Keogh (now living in Cape Town) and Tim Plewman. The choices of the new cast are going to be intriguing.

It runs from April 9 to May 5.

Another huge name, John Kani, is next in line with his new play Missing which will be staged from June 4 to July 7, directed by Janice Honeyman and starring Susan Danford, Apollo Anthony and Buhle Ngaba.

It’s the story of exile, about coming back, about finding a place – and perhaps most important, about a new country. How do we make that happen?

It’s also about a foreign wife who knew this day would come when they would “go home” but it wasn’t a reality until now. Not to even start with the children whose early beginnings were so different. Now they’re back in a land which has been eulogised but is all too human.

We might need a little humour at this stage and the Barber boys are back with Joe Barber VI from July 23 to August 24. Directed with a sharp eye by Heinrich Reisenhofer and starring the dynamic David Isaacs and Oscar Petersen, fans will know it and those who aren’t familiar with these hair-raising twins will have to witness their antics to get the full flavour. It’s a hilarious interlude.

Lara Foot, artistic director of Cape Town’s Baxter, returns with Did We Dance? (The Sinking of the Mendi) in the Barney Simon Theatre. It is directed and workshopped by Mandla Bothwe from the original text by Foot and described as storytelling with movement.

With The Laager closed for renovations following Agreed, this one follows Expectant and runs from February 12 to March 16, starring Soweto Theatre’s Warona Seane, Bongo Nkani, Owen Manamela-Mogane, Thando Doni, Apollo Ntshoko, Bongile Mantsai, Mongezi Ncwadi and Xolani Ngesi.

It’s the story of the sinking of the SS Mendi – one of the worst marine disasters in history and one of the greatest tragedies in the history of the South African military. It fatefully sank in British waters during World War I, in 1917.

The title of the play is derived from the legend of the “death dance” – the men of the labour contingent performed one last, barefooted dance on the tilting deck of the Mendi before she plunged beneath the ocean.

A Human Being Died That Night by Nicholas Wright, based on the book by Pumla Gobogo-Madikizela, has had rave reviews in London. Running from March 19 to April 6, directed by Jonathan Munby, with actors Noma Dumezweni and Matthew Marsh, this is described as an acutely nuanced and original study of a state-sanctioned mass murderer.

It’s been compared to Dead Man Walking, the film in which a nun fights for a killer’s life. If you hear the name Eugene de Kock, you will understand what’s at play.

The man dubbed Prime Evil, who commanded apartheid death squads, is serving 212 years in jail for crimes against humanity. Gobodo-Madikizela, who grew up in a township, served as a psychologist in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. As this play opens, Gobodo-Madikizela enters Pretoria’s maximum security prison to meet this man. What follows is a journey into what it means to be human.

It’s about our nation – from the worst to those who can rise above anything they are given, no matter how evil. That’s who we are.

Playwright Zakes Mda returns with The Mother of All Eating from April 14 running into May. Directed by Makhaola Ndebele, the play explores the unfortunate culture of corruption called “eating” which has become synonymous with corrupt state officials who enrich themselves through government deals and funds. There’s one man in particular who is corrupt to the core, and has thoroughly enriched himself within the ranks of his government until things come to a screeching halt.

The satire is set in Lesotho in the 1980s and exposes the greed, the destructive mindsets and tragic effects behind corruption.

The Mother of All Eating was first performed in Maseru, Lesotho in 1992. In 2010, it again played for a new generation at the Drama for Life SA Theatre Season and travelled to Botswana (Maitisong Theatre Festival) and Lesotho. In 2012, it was staged at the Arts Alive International festival in Joburg.

The Playroom is last year’s Zwakala Festival Winner which will be staged from May 14 to June 1 with author/director Thando Mzembe performing with Khanyiso Gcasamba, Khanyiswa Mazwai, Luleka Ngcenge and Xola Mntanywa.

Three mentally disturbed people are placed in a mental institution. In their playroom they go through experiences that reveal the truth about themselves and their mental dislocation. These are gems that keep shining and youngsters make their stage debut and often move on to become Young Artist award winners. Check it out.

Finally there’s The View which has been described as the best play of last year by a seasoned Cape- tonian theatregoer. It runs from June 11 until 29. With play- wright/director Philip Rademeyer and starring either Gideon Lombard or Roelof Storm and Ella Gabriel, a young man sits alone in a prison cell, looking down at a ruined Earth and dreaming of being rescued.

A gatekeeper arrives with his final request: a video containing interviews with various people from his life. Through a series of conversations between the boy and these people – from the driver who brought him to this prison, to his parents struggling to accept the loss of their son – this is the boy’s life and relationships and also reveals the reason for his incarceration.

The play was inspired by an American pastor’s recent comments that gays and lesbians should be contained in isolated enclosures and ultimately killed off.

It’s stirring stuff.