‘Nkoli: The Vogue Opera’ pays homage to Simon Nkoli, a gay activist and anti-apartheid leader

‘Nkoli: The Vogue Opera’ is coming to The Market Theatre.

‘Nkoli: The Vogue Opera’ is coming to The Market Theatre.

Published Nov 14, 2023


The shows abound as we head into the festive season.

One that should be on your radar this week is “Nkoli: The Vogue-Opera”, which has been described as “ a show like no other”, at The Market Theatre.

Context is important in the production, which unpacks the trials and tribulations of Simon Nkoli, a gay anti-apartheid freedom fighter who was imprisoned for four years, from 1985 to 1988, in the famous Delmas Treason trial.

Nkoli was a pioneer in the queer liberation movement in South Africa and had it not been for him, SA would not have been the first country to explicitly protect sexual minorities.

The story dates from October 13, 1990, with Nkoli leading the first Gay Pride March in Africa. The march reportedly resembled Black Queer Vogueing events, where attendees were strutting their stuff in a sometimes playful and, at other times, all-out-style war.

“Nkoli: The Vogue-Opera” features a cast of 26 leading singers, dancers, voguers and musicians. The production is contemporary, with an amalgamation of rap, opera, protest songs and archival audio clips.

According to the press release, the production is “part opera, part vogueing-ball” and, in terms of energy, it matches Nkoli’s fierce and fabulous personality.

“Think if ‘Hamilton’ and ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ had a baby in South Africa. That’s ‘Nkoli: The Vogue-Opera!’,” says S’bo Gyre, the co-lyricist.

The production is created and composed by internationally renowned composer Philip Miller. His recent successes include the soundtrack to the “uShaka iLembe” score. Award-winning international UK director and screenwriter Rikki Beadle-Blair is at the helm as the director.

He said: “I have always wanted to work at The Market Theatre. The home of protest theatre in South Africa.”

Beadle-Blair continued: “Simon loved glamour, and so we can’t think of a better way to tell his story. To combine his story with vogue-ball culture which is a celebration of possibility, defiance, activism, dance, glamour and escapism.”

Believe it or not, the production has been four years in the making.

The other creatives involved include Llewellyn Mnguni on choreography, Mr Allofit with the costumes and Catherine Meyburgh, an accomplished video designer.

Tshegofatso Moeng oversees the musical direction while Harriet Perlman wears the hat of a producer.

The show runs from November 17 to 19 at John Kani, The Market Theatre, at 7pm. Ticket prices range from R100 and R250 and are available from Webtickets.

“Nkoli: The Vogue-Opera” will embark on its international tour next year.


The cast of ‘Shrek Jr’. Picture: Supplied

“Shrek Jr”

Panto season is here and if you haven’t seen “Shrek Jr” yet, you have time.

The rendition of “Shrek”, which is based on the Oscar-winning DreamWorks Animation film, has been adapted specially for younger audiences.

As the fable goes, in a faraway kingdom the green ogre, Shrek, finds his swamp invaded by banished fairytale misfit runaways who Lord Farquaad, a tiny terror with big ambitions, has cast off.

When Shrek sets off with a wise-cracking donkey to confront Farquaad, he’s handed a task: if he rescues feisty Princess Fiona from the Dragon-guarded tower, his swamp will be returned to him, but like any fairy tale, it wouldn’t be complete without unexpected twists and turns along the way.

Part romance and part twisted fairy tale, “Shrek JR” is an irreverently fun show for the whole family, with imaginative sets and costumes.

The show is produced and directed by Jill Girard and Keith Smith.

Where: Peoples Theatre.

When: On until December 24. Show times are at 9am and 11am on Tuesdays to Fridays. On the weekends and school holidays, it’s at 10.30am and 2.20pm.

Tickets: Cost R165 and R130 if you are a member of the Peoples Theatre Kids Club. R140 for accompanying members. Call 011 877 6841 or email [email protected] for bookings or enquiries.

“Defending the Caveman”

Back by popular demand, the one-man comedy looks at the differences between men and women, which has sparked healthy debate among the sexes.

The show was originally conceived by US comedian Rob Becker, who, in making relatable observations on the male-female dynamic in relationships, latched onto a winning stage show.

The SA version includes the nuances we have not only come to expect but have been ingrained in many of us since childhood.

This production stars Craig Jackson and is directed by Aurelia Stratton.

This rib-tickling offering has woven in the challenges of Covid, the conflicts across the world and load shedding.

According to the overview, “’Defending the Caveman’ offers plenty of highs and lows as it unpacks the Neanderthal-esque behaviour of today’s men.

Aside from tickling the funny bone, the conversation is thought-provoking.

Where: Theatre on the Square.

When: On until December 2, at 7.30pm.

Cost: R200 from Computicket or can book at the theatre by calling 011 883 8606.