Siyabonga Twala. Picture: Andrew Billington
The Market Theatre’s adaptation of Es’kia Mphahlele’s The Suitcase opened to a packed Dr John Kani theatre on Wednesday evening for what will be a five-week run of the classic production.

The cast is something of a reunion of old collaborators with James Ngcobo, the Market’s artistic director, having directed this remake as well. 

He works with Siyabonga Twala who plays the role of Timi Ngobese, while Masasa Mbangeni takes on the role of Namhla Ngobese as well as one of the roles of the storytellers. 

They are joined by renowned actors John Lata in the role of the talkative Pitso and Desmond Dube as Mlotshwa.

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The musical accompaniment of the production is provided by Bheki Khoza who plays the guitar and the three vocalists Nokukhanya Dlamini, Gugulethu Shezi and Ndoh Dlamini.

The production has recently returned from a successful UK tour where the production was well received.

The Suitcase cast. Picture: Andrew Billington

The Suitcase is the story of a young married couple, Timi and Namhla Ngobese, who decide to move to the city despite the disapproval of their families.Their plan is simple, they want to move to the city till they are able to withstand the pressure and have the money to not care about the disapproval of those closest to them. 

When the pair get to the city, the milk and honey they envisaged is nowhere to be found.

The pressures of the city, unemployment and poverty strip away the husband’s self-esteem and he starts to lose his moral compass. He is so desperate to provide for his pregnant wife that he steals a suitcase left on a bus.

This action leads to frightening consequences.

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Twala is spellbinding in his portrayal of Timi. He embodies perfectly the pureness of spirit that we expect from Timi and his excitement of coming to a new city with his beloved. 

He forms a bond with the audience that forces them to get emotionally involved in his journey. The chemistry between him and Mbangeni, makes their love affair endearing and extremely believable.

Siyabonga Twala and Masasa Mbangeni. Picture: Andrew Billington

She adds a level of depth to the character of Namhla that makes her seem more than just a happy-go-lucky young woman.

The comedic prowess of Dube and Lata works well to get the story moving along. The musical accompaniment is also written beautifully into the production, with most of the music being either jazz or soulful blues.

The production explores issues of unemployment under the Apartheid regime, the experiences of men and women in rural areas, forbidden love, abortion and issues of motherhood.

The set is simple; featuring a table and chairs and a couple of household items which flesh out Timi and Namhla’s small shack dwelling in Umkhumbane, and benches that illustrate the bus , Number 10, that Timi usually takes.

* This classic production is a definite must see.

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