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Sunday, March 20, 2011


(Bheki Mkhwane and Maurice Podbrey)

Veteran theatre producer / director Maurice Podbrey together with much-loved Durban theatre personality Bheki Mkhwane will launch of a new KZN company – Just in Time Productions - committed to the development and presentation of indigenous theatre with three remarkable plays in repertoire at the Loft Playhouse Theatre from April 5 to 24.

A theatre trust which intends to focus on development work, Just in Time Productions aims to train theatre practitioners; produce new South African theatre; raise funds to develop and stage productions, and put a touring programme in place for indigenous work. The trust’s vision is to create and stage productions in South African various indigenous languages and to encourage new and innovative writing as well as translate existing quality scripts into South African indigenous languages. The company intends to work towards offering a sustainable environment for new work to be created and staged.

Just in Time wants to begin a process of redressing the fact that there are few opportunities for indigenous work to have a meaningful presence on the main professional theatre circuit currently in South Africa. The producers were moved when they heard that even South African theatre luminaries such as John Kani has never worked on a major full length play in his own language.

The three plays chosen for the launch season for Just in Time Productions all tell distinctly South African stories – all new works with original scripts. Two of the productions: Sitting around the Fire and A Plague of Heroes are mainly in English, while the third uThembalethu – Tshepang is in isiZulu (published by Nutrend Publishers of Pietermaritzburg).

“The plays are sure to excite, entertain and inspire,” says Maurice Podbrey. “Each has a high level of theatricality and performance skills are of the best.”

Sitting Round the Fire (60 minutes - no intermission) is written and directed by Bheki Mkhwane and features Sduduzo Kawula, Bhekani Shabalala, Bheki Khabela and Bheki Mkhwane. It tells the story of four streetwise kids who have had their lives profoundly changed, and perhaps saved, by a chance meeting with Mablavana, an old man, who himself had sought refuge from a dangerous world. That was many years ago! News of his death brings them back to the site of their first meeting but no longer as boys - they are now men and their stories, too, are transformed with magical effect into an acappella musical. It won a Standard Bank Ovation Award on the Grahamstown Fest. 2010.

A Plague of Heroes (55 minutes – no intermission) is a semi autobiographical piece written by Vusi Mazibuko, directed by Maurice Podbrey and featuring Thami Mbongo. It is set in the Greyville horse racing tote call centre surrounded by the races on the big screen and the many voices and accents of Durban life calling in their bets. Vusi grew up in Kwa Mashu and, like many other youngsters, fell under the seductive spell of the gangster elite – the “heroes” of the townships. An intoxicating life-style is suddenly cut short and Vusi, now a paraplegic, has to find his way in an uncaring and lonely world. His fight back and reformation is stunning and gives new meaning to the notion of heroism. It won the Best Production Award at the Baxter Theatre Ikhwezi Festival 2010.

uThembalethu- Tshepang (80 minutes –no intermission) is written by Lara Foot; and directed by Maurice Podbrey and features Bheki Mkhwane (who translated the play) and Silindile Ndlovu. Tshepang toured extensively abroad and throughout South Africa in English, parts of the country in Afrikaans, and now arrives in Durban in isiZulu as uThebalethu. It has won countless awards and been hailed as possibly the South African play of the decade. The question that runs through a true story – one that occurred in the Northern Cape seven years ago and shook the conscience not only of this country but the world was: “When a community is brutalized by years of neglect and poverty how does it protect its own children?”

Booking is through Computicket on 083 915 8000 or or Playhouse box office on 031 369 9540. For more information on performance dates, call up the atSMart Events List and click on the Forthcoming Events window on the right hand side of this article. On April 23, there will be a performance of all three plays.