……BY BILLY SUTER…….
A TEAM of diverse talent has been assembled by The Playhouse Company to celebrate Africa Month with a festival of arts scheduled for May 13 to 21 at the Durban city centre arts complex.
Incorporating The Playhouse Company’s annual New Stages event that showcases fresh theatre work, the celebrations reflect the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture’s theme for Africa Month: “The year of Arts, Culture and Heritage in the year of Charlotte Maxeke”.
The first big attraction is Refugees, a hard-hitting play focused on the harsh realities of people living in refugee camps in Africa. It premiered at 10am today and has final performances at 7pm on Friday, May 14 and 2.30pm on Saturday, May 15, at the Playhouse Drama theatre. Tickets cost R50 each and booking is via Webtickets.
Refugees is directed by Durban theatre stalwart, Jerry Pooe, whose drama focuses on people reduced to statistics while trapped in a refugee camp. It relates personal stories of pain, sadness, soul-searching, humiliation and hope – and also questions and explores the power of religion and spirituality. Told through movement, song, images and narration, Refugees is also a tale questioning the state of freedom.
The play’s cast includes Xolani Henema, Nhlakanipho Maphumulo, Bongumusa Shabalala, Nxege Ndlovu, Stella Zuma, Zanele Zulu, Sfundo Mbanjwa and Qiniso Mngoma.
Pooe has devoted more than 25 years to the arts industry and has written and directed some 20 productions, including Moipone, Peace in the Valley, Ekhaya Poppie and Dinuzulu, all of which have been staged at the Playhouse. A musical he wrote and directed, King Cetshwayo: The Musical, toured the UK in 2017.
On Friday, May 14, Test Driving the Arts – a Playhouse Company initiative providing performance opportunities for upcoming artists – will feature Amajalimane and Grateful Singers, performing maskandi and gospel music. This fun event is free and will be held from 1pm in The Playhouse Cellar.
A new drama, Azania, will be presented at the Playhouse Loft, as part of the New Stages Fringe, from noon to 1.30pm on Saturday, May 15, when there will also be a performance by gospel group Mighty Rooted Voices.
Azania tells a story of hope and disappointment through flashbacks. It is centred on a man called Bantu Africa, whose search for a daughter who disappeared when South Africa gained democracy in 1994 continues for two decades. During his search, Bantu meets a white woman who wants to marry him, but an hour before the wedding, Bantu unveils a secret.
Community Conversation, a free event in which lively discussion by a diverse panel of experts will focus on the topic, ‘Innovation and Creativity During the Covid-19 Pandemic’, has been scheduled for Saturday, May 15. It starts at 12 noon in the Playhouse Grand Foyer.
The dialogue will be facilitated by actress, author and activist Ayanda Borotho. The panel will include actress and fashion designer Sthandiwe Kgoroge; all-female communications agency founder and CEO Tumi Mkhonto; actor, editor and former model Muzi Mthabela; and actor Thabo Mnguni. Numbers are limited, so booking a free ticket is advised. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Jazz fans are sure to hotfoot it to the Playhouse Opera theatre at 7pm on Saturday, May 15, for the Playhouse Company’s proud presentation of an eagerly-awaited father-son spectacle, The Themba Mkhize Jazz Experience. Tickets for this one-night-only performance cost R100 each and are available via Webtickets.
Award-winning jazz pianist, arranger and composer Themba Mkhize and his equally talented pianist son, Afrika Mkhize, with share the stage with Empangeni-raised Afro-jazz and gospel vocalist Nokukhanya Dlamini, to offer a glittering celebration of South African jazz.
Another free Community Conversation event, this one focusing on ‘Entertainment Under the New Normal’, is scheduled for The Playhouse Grand Foyer at 12 noon on Friday, May 21. This dialogue will be an open-community conversation that aims to offer solutions to artists, business owners, companies and entrepreneurs that are experiencing negative effects of the global pandemic.
The discussion will be facilitated by Sipho Sithole, a widely respected expert on music and culture, and will include panellists DJ Tira, popular recording personality Mdu Ngcobo, and the founder of the SABC Crown Gospel Music Awards, Zanele Mbokazi. To book a free seat, email email@example.com
There will be more drama and song in The Playhouse Loft between noon and 2pm on Friday, May 21, with a new stage work titled Usphetho and music by kwaito group Showkillers. Presented as part of the New Stages Fringe, Usphetho is inspired by the true story of an elderly security guard at the South African National Graveyard. He becomes a suspect when, in 2018, a coffin containing the body of a well-known community member is stolen.
At 5pm on May 21, The Playhouse Company will present a free Sundowner Concert in the Grand Foyer,featuring exciting Durban singer-songwriter Zoe the Seed, who has worked with Ernest Dawkins, Salim Washington, Africa Mkhize, Ernie Smith and Nduduzo Makhathini. The concert will also spotlight seasoned Durban bassist Bongani Nkwanyana, who has performed alongside Sipho Gumede, Busi Mhlongo, Tu Nokwe and Mbongeni Ngema, among others.
Another sampling of the effervescence of African culture will be showcased in the Playhouse Opera at 7pm on May 21, with Mbuso Khoza: iJadu Le Africa, featuring the powerhouse that is Mbuso Khoza, an award-winning vocalist, composer, writer and widely respected proponent of African culture and heritage.
The one-night-only performance, for which tickets cost R100 each at Webtickets, will have Khoza accompanied by a 16-voice a cappella group, The Afrikan Heritage Ensemble. It promises to be a joyous celebration of Afrocentric music, the programme featuring original compositions and seminal works by African giants.
Khoza, from Eshowe, has a rich and unique sound that has become popular on the World Music circuit. He has toured extensively with his mix of traditional and jazz music, including to Switzerland, Senegal, Portugal, Burkina Faso, France and The Netherlands.