Rivonia Trial

Director: Aubrey Sekhabi

Cast: Sello Maake ka Ncube, Macks Papo, Brandon Auret, Fezile Mpela, Pranesh Maharaj, Emanuel Castis, Moagi Modise, Quinton Sutton, Edward Malungane, Boitumelo Shisana, Xolile Tshabalala, Harriet Manamela, Natalie Chapman, Peter Terry, Lionel Newton, Renos Nicos Spanoudes, David James, David Clatworthy, Erno van Dyk, Dries Botha, Molefi Monaisa and Pamela Ndlovu.

Venue: State Theatre, Arena

until: May 15

Rating: ****

Back by popular demand, Rivonia Trial is bringing in audiences in droves once again.

This is a story with great historical impact – about the Rivonia Treason Trial that took place in Pretoria and saw heroes like Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela, amongst others, jailed on Robben Island for a long time.

It is an important story to tell as it has the potential to contribute to nation building, as director Aubrey Sekhabi pointed out.

It is also a reminder of the vision the likes of Mandela, Sisulu, Govan Mbeki and their assistants had for this country.

This re-staging, which maintains its grand style and star- studded cast, comes with very visible and positive changes.

Most notable is that the play has been cut to two-and-a-half hours. It went slightly over time on opening night because of the logistics of getting people in and seated on time – something that should be looked at and can be fixed.

Because the actors have had time with the text, they’re now settled in their roles. Sello Maake ka Ncube has now found the soul of Nelson Mandela and he brings it forth with heart and sincerity of spirit.

Xolile Tshabalala’s Winnie Mandela has only got better – strong-willed and youthful – portraying characteristics one would expect from the young Madikizela.

Harriet Manamela and Natalie Chapman give grace to Albertina Sisulu and Hilda Bernstein respectively. Each actor seemingly carries something true to the character they play.

While Macks Papo plays Sisulu with a passion, the calm nature, the gift of humility and the quiet self- confidence that Sisulu was often associated with, is untraceable.

The new cast members including Fezile Mpela, Brandon Auret and Moagi Modise slip easily into their roles. But Mcedisi Shabangu left big shoes to fill in portraying Bruno Mtolo, who testified against Mandela and company during the trial.

What Shabangu gave to the character was his own natural style of delivery and street credibility.

In trying to achieve the same impact, Molefi Monaisa fakes an accent and comes through as a caricature instead of being real. This part of the act almost drowns the one that comes next, one of the highlights of the play: Mandela’s speech in court.

Delivered with much fervour this time by Maake ka Ncube, the content of the speech is still as potent and relevant today as the Freedom Charter is. It speaks to South Africa and all who live in it.

And when you take away the little dramatic glitches, Rivonia Trial is still a winning play because of the gravitas of its story and the way it is told. It’s a cause for celebration and should be seen by all South Africans.