Wiseman Ncube. Picture: Val Adamson

LAST month, pre-National Arts Festival (NAF), Tonight included Wiseman Mncube on our list of up and coming stars in theatre to watch out for.

Not only did the young theatre practitioner walk away with three NAF Awards, but he has also been selected to write a script for eTV’s Kasi Our Stories short film series – which is not related to the NAF but a great achievement for Mncube nonetheless.

We caught up with him to play catch-up on the NAF – which was held in Grahamstown last month – and to find out more about what he has on the go at the moment.

On the former, Mncube walked away from the prestigious festival with the New Writers Award – presented by the Performing Arts Network of SA and supported by Africalia. The award was introduced this year to encourage new writing on the Fringe.

Mncube was one of three winners, for his play Giving Birth to my Father. The other winners were Wynne Bredenkamp for Salt and Ameera Patel for Whistle Stop.

For the same play Mncube also scooped the Standard Bank New Voices Ovation Award which recognises “sparks of gems on the Fringe”. In addition, a Standard Bank Ovation Award was presented to Mncube Productions.

Commenting on the acknowledgements, Mncube said heading out the NAF this year, he had hoped for a win.

“Honestly, I had a little bit of a feeling (of a possible award) because I believed in our production. Then when I received the call that I actually won, I couldn’t believe it! Yes I wanted to win, but when it happened, it was another feeling… one I can’t describe,” he explained.

“I immediately called Fortunate (actress Lihle Dhlomo) and she couldn’t believe it either. I had one week (to work) with her after Ayanda Fali (the original actress cast in the play) couldn’t go on with the show… It was unbelievable. I would like to thank Fortunate Lihle Dhlomo, Roel Tjwnstra, Ayanda Fali, Sizakele Mkhize, Ntando Mncube, Mthandazo Mofokeng and Mancane… Without these people, this show wouldn’t have been what it is today,” added Mncube.

The young writer-director said he was definitely taking Giving Birth to my Father as well as his other play, The Chameleon, back to Grahamstown next year. “Thomas Mpoloeng and I are also planning to take Dawn of the Cockroach. It’s a big show with a lot of cast members.”

Two other Durbanites left the NAF with Standard Bank Ovation Encore awards, which recognise merit and potential in works that can be developed. They are (the now Joburg-based) stand-up comedian Robbie Collins for That Bushman’s Crazy and Durban-based Actors Unemployed Company for The Erl King.

We asked Mncube how he kept motivated to continue writing new works and working the industry so hard at a time when there were many challenges facing the arts in general.

“It’s the love I have for my craft. My play The Weeping Candle is what keeps me motivated because it was such a success. When I write, I make sure I produce quality work. I don’t want to have a good concept and a bad script – that would be giving another writer an opportunity to produce a great script out of my concept. I am still a growing writer-director and I think I’m in the right lane.

“As a performer, it’s about trying to prove myself wrong that motivates me to be a quality performer. I sometimes tell myself that I can’t do a certain role, but I will prove myself wrong. That’s what motivates me as an actor.”

Mncube first began grabbing theatre-goers’ attention when he won an award for his performance in Bra Six Two at the Musho Theatre Festival in 2012.

Giving Birth to My Father marks Mncube’s third work after Weeping Candle and The Chameleon. He has continued to write, direct and act for stage and now seems to be heading into television.

“Right now, I am writing a script, The Twist of Life, which I will also direct for eTV Kasi our Stories. It will be shot in Durban. That’s where my focus is right now since it’s the first time I am writing for TV. I’m currently in Joburg, focusing on my acting. I will be here for a while.”

Giving Birth to my Father – which journeys with a young woman who after 18 years of imprisonment finds herself torn between imagination and reality about what awaits her on the outside – will be staged at the eThekwini Festival at the Ekhaya Multi Arts Centre in KwaMashu and at the Hilton Arts Festival next month.