Bheki Mkhwane exits classic play ‘Bopha’ due to health complications

By Kedibone Modise Time of article published May 25, 2021

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Theatre director, producer, playwright and veteran actor Bheki Mkhwane has dropped out of the South African State theatre’s production “Bopha!” due to ill health.

Mkhwane, who is popularly known for his role as Samson, in the hit show “Isibaya”, will no longer play the role of Njandini in the new season of “Bopha!”

The SA State Theatre said the legendary performer has been booked off sick for four weeks.

Details surrounding Mkhwane’s illness are not known.

“I cast Bheki, aware that he will deliver,” veteran playwright Percy Mtwa said. “He is a strong and experienced actor with a special handling of dialogue. I have always admired him. With him, I believed I found Njandini.

“I am disturbed by him missing the season. We will miss him, and we wish him a speedy recovery.”

Written and directed by Mtwa, “Bopha!”, which means arrest, resist or stop, tells the story of a black family torn between loyalty to the apartheid police service and solidarity with anti-apartheid activism.

Mkhwane’s departure from the production has led to the return of Mtwa to the stage, following his masterpiece feature in the 40th anniversary of the theatre classic Woza Albert in 2019 at State Theatre.

Mtwa will star alongside fellow thespian Tshallo Chokwe and seasoned actor Terrence Ngwila.

Tshallo Chokwe. Picture: Itumeleng Khumisi

After 30 years, Mtwa restages the classic at South African State Theatre from Tuesday, May 25, till Sunday, June 13.

Conceived in 1984, Bopha! was inspired by black-on-black violence during a demonstration against the launch of the Tri-cameral Parliament the year before.

“It triggered memories of how my father, himself an ex-policeman, was expelled from the police force in the late 1950s, for insubordination in his stubborn refusal to perform police duties that treated black people as victims of the law,” Mtwa said.

“The play was conceived as an endeavour to address the dilemma faced by black policemen and local government officials, including the negative impact apartheid had in black families’ lives whose loyalties were torn between conformity and/or resistance to apartheid.”

Percy Mtwa. Picture: Itumeleng Khumisi

Mtwa last directed “Bopha!” was in 1987, at the Los Angeles International Festival, where the play became the recipient of five Drama Critic Circle Awards including Best Play, Best Director and Best Actor.

After premièring at the Market Theatre in 1985, “Bopha!” proceeded to a national and international tour that included Swaziland, Scotland, England, Australia and the US.

In 1993, the play was adapted into a Hollywood film, which became American film-maker Morgan Freeman’s directorial debut.

Tickets to “Bopha!” are R120 and available at Webtickets at Pick n Pay.

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