It has quickly become an annual event for Zabalaza artistic director Thami Mbongo to launch the festival by sewing snippets of various shows into one production.

Friday night’s show flowed surprisingly well, considering 40 artists from several companies all worked together on one production.

While several of this year’s plays seem to use humour to get their point across, some very heavy themes will be tackled including abortion, family secrets, loss of innocence, death as more welcoming than life in South Africa, xenophobia and an abstract take on the events at Marikana.

This will probably go down as the year the festival started thinking more conceptually and less literally, with some of the snippets featuring either heavily ritualised behaviour or props to suggest concepts such as innocence or protection.

Two excerpts from Khayalethu Anthony’s new one-man show The Champion were cleverly woven into the evening to highlight a huge theme of some of the works, boys who grow up without strong positive male role models and how this affects their relationships, both interpersonal and with the community at large.

Baxter Theatre chief exectutive, Lara Foot, said in her welcoming address that one of the key principles they have been working towards is to give writers more credibility. Four years ago they couldn’t even get scripts out of many of the directors, this year not only did they receive finished scripts, but two have been published by Junket Publishers.

Zabalaza winning productions Skierlik and Worst of Both Worlds are now available for up-and-coming theatre directors and schools to use in addition to the Junket catalogue which includes chosen soliloques culled from South African works.

A goal the Zabalaza crew want to work on this year is to find and nurture more scripts in vernacular languages. The launch evening featured several well-received excerpts that didn’t feature a single word in English or Afrikaans, so this is not as far-fetched an idea as it seemed four years ago.

Until Thursday the festival will present 12 main productions during the week plus two nights of spoken word and hip hop at the Baxter Concert Hall.

The performers come from in and around the Western Cape. As Mbongo pointed out, they are regularly approached by community theatre groups from around South Africa who want to take part in the workshops which culminate in the festival, but a lack of funding means they can only do so much.