A NEW local drama festival, intended as an annual event, will be held from March 17 to 20 at Durban’s historic Stable Theatre at 115 Johannes Nkosi Street, formerly Alice Street.

To be known as the Phambili Festival, it will place a strong focus on youth and will involve more than a dozen theatre groups in a programme that will offer three shows a day at the cosy theatre.

“The word Phambili means ‘let’s go forward’, but it is also the command a rider might give to a horse to urge it forward with energy,” says festival organiser Jerry Pooe.

Pooe is also the Stable Theatre’s development officer.

“This title reflects the continued energetic way forward for the Stable Theatre. It also makes reference to horses and the reason the Stable Theatre is so named,” he adds.

In the mid-1970s, Stable Theatre’s founder, Kessie Govender, discovered that the municipal authorities of the time allocated more money to the building of a stable for a horse than it did to the badly constructed dwellings built for those forcibly removed from Mkhumbane under the Group Areas Act.

Consequently, Govender’s first play was called Stable Expense and his theatre company became the Stable Theatre Company.

“By choosing the name Phambili, we indicate the Stable Theatre’s energy in ‘going forward’,” says Pooe.

“It is a place that offers many benefits for young people who are presenting themselves through theatre, and we want to give the festival an urban feel,” he adds.

While the festival’s focus is to be on youth, the guest artist will be Vivian Moodley, a veteran of stage, screen and radio.

Now in his 60s, Moodley followed the work of Govender from his late teens and states that he was “always in awe of the man and his politics”.

Moodley’s play, Cast the First Stone, which will be staged during the festival, takes a look at child abuse, especially abuse by a parent.

Also in the line-up of shows at the festival is To Be Like This Rock, written by current Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for drama, Durban’s Neil Coppen. To Be Like This Rock is directed by Debbie Lutge and performed by Umsindo Productions from Umlazi.

Also worth catching are Tears Of an African Child, written and directed by Lucky Cele; Whilst We Were Dreaming, written and directed by Bhekani Biyela; The Comrade, penned by Tsepiso Motlatsi of TT Productions in Johannesburg; and Anti-Christ, written and directed by Bongani Baai.

Kwanele, a play written by Amy Jephta, is another festival highlight. Directed by Themi Venturas, it is performed by Uthando Lwabaqulusi, which is based in Vryheid.

Also of note is Camp 13, performed by Just Don’t from KwaMashu. It is written by David Stein, who co-directed with the cast and Pooe.

Wedding Goat, a play penned by Dhaveshan Govender, is also to be presented at the festival. It is directed by Bheki Mkhwane and performed by Ubuntu from KwaMashu.

Another festival pick is Truth Heals, directed by Xolani Dlongolo, which features Musawenkosi Shabalala and Bongumusa Shabalala.

On March 17 and 18, from 9am to 1pm, workshops titled Business in the Arts will be presented at the Stable Theatre as part of the Phambili Festival, which is sponsored by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Department of Arts and Culture KZN, the Ethekwini Municipality, and Business and Arts SA.

For more information contact the theatre at 031 309 2513, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.stabletheatre.co.za.