Directed by Duma Ndlovu, with choreography by Somizi Mhlongo and musical direction by Phelelani Mnomiya, How Long? stars Thembi Mtshali, Phindile Gwala, Khaya Dladla, Mondli Makhoba and Nqobile Ndlovu.
The Playhouse has also commissioned the orchestration of Kente’s music, which will feature a six-piece band and 13-piece orchestra ensemble.
A melodramatic musical play with political undertones in Kente’s famous township theatre style, the work is based on the death of Khulu, a helpless grandmother, through brutal police action under apartheid bureaucracy.
The play exploded in township halls, but was later banned and Kente was imprisoned. Part of a trilogy of the only political plays by Kente, the work was written and last performed in 1973 before it was banned.
Ndlovu is an internationally renowned playwright, director and executive producer, working in film, television and stage. He is the director and founder at Word of Mouth Pictures and his most recent work includes Imbewu - The Seed, currently screening on e.tv. Ndlovu is also the custodian of the Gibson Kente Foundation.
“Kente was a man who generously shared his wisdom and his theatre expertise with younger actors privileged to work under him,” said Ndlovu. “He helped launch the careers of South Africans such as Darlington Michaels, Mbongeni Ngema, Sello Maake KaNcube and Brenda Fassie. Shortly before he died in 2002, he entrusted me with the responsibility of representing his music,” Ndlovu said.
“Where his contemporaries such as Athol Fugard - who, like him, stood against social and political injustice - drew the international limelight, Kente chose to work with grassroots audiences in townships, where the people saw his plays in community halls. This earned him the true epithet of the ‘Father of Black South African Township Theatre’.
“It is my honour to keep Bab Kente’s legacy alive, and I am excited to be directing this masterpiece.”
Choreographer Somizi Mhlongo has been in the entertainment business for almost 30 years. His career began at the age of 13 when he joined the Broadway musical Sarafina! He has also hosted the Safta and Sama Awards, worked as the lead choreographer for Miss South Africa pageants from 1998-2008, and appeared on his own show on Cliff Central.
The show runs at the Playhouse Opera theatre from May 5 to 27 at 7pm, Tuesday to Friday; 2pm and 7pm on Saturdays; and 2pm Sundays. Tickets are from R100 to R150 through Computicket.