Plaatjies will be making 
her debut with Cape Town Opera as the legendary jazz 
singer, Dolly Rathebe in ‘The Mandela Trilogy’. Supplied picture.

This year Edith Plaatjies won a Fleur du Cap Theatre Award for her stand-out 
performance as Joyce, the shebeen queen, in the second season of the Fugard Theatre’s re-imagining of the heritage hit musical, ‘King Kong’. Plaatjies will be making 
her debut with Cape Town Opera as the legendary jazz 
singer, Dolly Rathebe in ‘The Mandela Trilogy’. 

IN THE WINGS: Edith Plaatjies will be playing the role of Mandela’s mistress, the sassy and feisty Dolly Rathebe, in the upcoming stage production The Mandela Trilogy next month. Picture: Robyn Cohen

There are two performances only of this production which has been touring South Africa and overseas since its debut at Artscape in 2010 as The African Songbook: A Tribute to the Life of Nelson Mandela.

The stage play was conceived as a tribute on Madiba’s 92nd birthday and to be a showcase event during the World Cup, tracking his life - in three acts - through music and portraying his key relationships.

After the 2010 staging, the show was re-named and developed further as The Mandela Trilogy. The show has captivated audiences locally and on tours in Wales, Germany, Italy, England and Ireland.

Plaatjies, 32, says she is thrilled to be part of the 2018 edition of Mandela Trilogy. This staging is a tribute to the centenary of the birth of this extraordinary man on July 18.

We asked her about taking on the role of Dolly Rathebe - the IT gal of the 1940s and 50s. Rathebewas a singer in Sophiatown and acted in seminal films including Mapantsula, Jim Comes To Joburg and Magic Garden. She had the jazzy voice and the style - fans followed her story in Drum magazine (she was a frequent cover girl). In between it all, she was having an affair with Nelson Mandela - with his first wife Evelyn and wife-to-be maWinnie in the wings.

Can you talk about how you have gone about bringing the sassy, feisty Dolly Rathebe to life? You would think that having played a shebeen queen before, this would come easily, but no. Dolly is a strong woman who wants the heart of a man whose focus is to bring change and equality to all races in South Africa.

How would she get him to give her all of him? I think she would use her looks, her jazzy voice and her dominant personality, which could perhaps be a problem for her. Dolly’s confidence was so strong. I have done some research on her and this woman knew exactly what she wanted in life and was never afraid to speak her mind.

Madiba and Dolly managed to keep their dalliance largely under wraps, since there was no Twitter or Instagram. Tell us more about their relationship? Dolly’s relationship with Mandela was not widely spoken of but in an interview she did mention that they were extremely close I think she knew her place and was aware of Evelyn, the first wife, and maWinnie, the wife to be. Knowing she was the mistress, Dolly still had grace about the situation. I think all she tried to do was let Mandela see that she was there, available to be his one and only.

IN TUNE: Aubrey Lodewyk as Nelson Mandela and Philisa Sibeko as maWinnie.Pictures: John Snelling.

Did you get involved with the Mandela Trilogy after winning your Fleur du Cap award? I auditioned before I got the Fleur du Cap. This year has been full of surprises. To this day I’m still shaken when I look at my award. Being nominated for the Fleur alone was a big deal for me. Winning was something else -something amazing. To have been in the category with all those beautiful, talented women was absolutely humbling.

* When? Artscape Opera House on July 17 and 18. Tickets for The Mandela Trilogy are R130-R280. Book or call 0861 915 8000.