Empereors Palace, Kempton Park. Boxing Presser 310511. Heavyweights Francois Botha and Flo Simba. Picture: Etienne Rothbart. [Interoperability]Unknown tag (0x0128)=2

When the Stable Theatre in Durban central came under a team of new management in late 2010 and started picking up its socks, it was clear that nothing was going to hinder the revamp.

That we’re seeing the second instalment of the (now annual) Phambili Youth Theatre Festival |is proof that the once run down theatre is on its way to resuming |its position as a key developer of |the arts in Durban.

The 2012 leg of the Fest kicks |off this weekend in a recently refurbished and newly equipped 200-seater theatre.

Since its R4 million funding boost for an upgrade last year, those in the front line have ensured it’s all put to good use. But with a team comprising stalwarts in the industry with the likes of Jerry Pooe, Caroline Smart and Thuli Dumakude, to name just a few, |what more could be expected but excellence.

Phambili Youth Theatre Festival is organised by young people and is presented by the Stable Theatre in association with Twist Projects.

This year the festival opens with the launch of Zulu Crush, a book by international theatre practitioner Roel Twijnstra of Theatregroep Siberia, from Holland.

This year, the festival also introduces Twist Projects’ New Scripts book launch and a grand opening of the festival by one of Durban’s most powerful and talented theatre groups – Umsindo Theatre Productions from Umlazi C Section – whom local theatre supporters would remember |from their amazing stories and performances told in productions such as To Be Like This Rock (Standard Bank Ovation Award at the 2011 Grahamstown Festival) which exposes truths on child trafficking.

This year, led by Musawenkosi and Bongumusa Shabalala, and Xolani Dlongolo, Umsindo will present The Seed (written by Amy Jephta)

Dlongolo said the play delves into HIV/Aids and the stigma attached to it.

“We work with kids who are HIV-positive and their parents, so we felt there is a need to do this kind of production… The reaction from the youngsters who worked on this play was very emotional, we had to even take them for counselling. And it is like this because we are touching on real issues here, we are not beating around the bush.”

In the play a father goes to the city to work, where he engages with a prostitute. He returns home with a “seed” (HIV) that is ploughed into his family with extensive effects.

“In our communities we are battling high crime rates, HIV/Aids, Woonga (a drug cocktail of antiretrovirals mixed with other drugs)… these are huge problems. We urge our own communities to come to the Festival and come watch these plays that speak to our issues,” said Dlongolo.

Emma Durden, from Twist Theatre Development Projects, said supporting community theatre was an opportunity for people to see the kind of theatre that is being created in townships and peri-Urban areas.

“The tickets are affordable and it is a great way of supporting people who are on the cusp of breaking into the profession,” Durden said.

This year, the festival introduces work from the Wushwini Arts and Culture Heritage Centre , in the mountains and rural surrounds of KwaNgcolosi on Wushwini Road, overlooking Inanda Dam.

Siyakha Performing Artists, Emuhle All Artists, Uthando Lwabaqulusi, Big Brotherhood and Ubuntu Besizwe Productions are presented by Twist Projects, sharing a stage with groups from the Stable Theatre and K-CAP.

One of the co-ordinators at the Stable, Khetiwe Hlatshwayo, said: “We as a theatre are providing a platform for these youth produc-|tions to be seen on a professional platform and by a more mature audience. Also one of the aims is for potential sponsors to come along and see what these youth have to offer. At the end of the day you |do arts not just for the love of it, |but to be able to put bread on the table.

• The Phambili Youth Theatre Festival takes place from March 9-11 at Stable Theatre. Tickets are just R20. For more details contact Stable Theatre on 031 309 2513 during office hours.

Here’s a glance at the Phambili Youth Theatre Festival programme:

• Friday, March 9: 10am-3pm website/ social media workshop; 6pm Zulu Crush by Roel Twijnstra book launch, 7pm Phambili Youth Theatre Festival Launch / Twist Projects New Scripts book launch, 7.15pm The Seed by Umsindo Theatre Productions

• Saturday, March 10: 2pm Ants Job (performed by Siza Mkhize, written/directed by Bhekani Biyela), 3pm: Lost Love (performed by Siyakha Performing Artists, written by Sihle Mazibuko, directed by Dumisani Kubheka), 4pm The Land of Milk (performed by Emuhle All Artists, written by Genbia Hyla, directed by Bongani Baai), 5pm Zwelihle (performed by Newcastle Arts Development Organisation, written/directed by Zama Msibi), 6pm How to get the Story (performed and written by Uthando Lwabaqulusi, directed by Bheki Mkhwane), 7pm Bull called Bahlangane (performed by Big Brotherhood, written by Neil Coppen, directed by Edmund Mhlongo)

• Sunday, March 11: 1pm We Salute Yesterday, Tomorrow and Today (performed by Ubuntu Besizwe Productions, written by Xolani Dlongolo, directed by Sithembiso Zwane), 2pm Living Death (performed by Siyathuthuka, written/directed by Siya Mthembu)