national Arts Festival Banner

Saturday, May 7, 2011


(Sandile Mchunu and Phumlani Ngubane)

Just Don’t is one of three productions forming part of The Playhouse Company’s current Community Arts Festival where a group of talented actors and their directors and scriptwriters have been mentored by experienced theatre practitioners.

I have to admit to a vested interest at the outset as I was contracted to train the casts in voice production. It has been a highly rewarding process as the actors are eager to learn and responded well to exploring the capacity of their voices. The other mentors were Edmund Mhlongo (director of the festival), Faca Kulu, Linda Gcwensa, Musa Hlatshwayo, Zinhle Gumede, Ashwin Singh and Dr Christopher John who brought their valuable skills to the project in terms of acting, dance, music and scriptwriting.

I highly commend the Playhouse Company for this project. Impressive progress has been made from the day when the three productions were first presented to the mentors. The actors have grown in voice and movement skills and the productions benefited from improved scripting and the extension of ideas.

Based on real life experiences, Just Don’t was originally conceived by Lucky Simayela (also the director), Mlungisi Mkhize and Vumani Khumalo. It is a highly dramatic and powerful work relaying the message – “just don’t” do crime.

Jesu (Sandile Mchunu), a young boy from a well-off family lands up in Westville Maximum Prison because he committed the petty crime of stealing a cellphone as a birthday gift for his girlfriend. However, he is incarcerated with a bunch of hardened criminals. Played by Phumlani Ngubane, Sandile Nxumalo, Sphephelo Nxumalo and Lucky Simayela, the prison gangsters terrify the boy and eventually abuse him both physically and sexually. He becomes paralysed and HIV positive, fighting for his life. Ntuthuko Ndwandwe plays the unsympathetic prison warder.

Sandile Mchunu carries off the acting honours for his sensitive and dramatic performance, closely followed by Phumlani Ngubane who impresses with underplayed touches of evil. The rest of the cast members are first-rate and highly focused, making for an excellent dramatic piece.

Just Don’t has an extended life after its run at the Community Arts Festival as it forms part of the Playhouse Company’s 2011 Schools Programme and will tour to schools throughout KZN between May 9 and 27 on the Playhouse Transnet Mobile Stage.

Schools interested in securing bookings for Just Don’t at R10 per learner should call Thubelihle Shazi at The Playhouse Company on 031 369 9456, or by e-mail

Just Don’t has two more performances in the Playhouse Loft – May 7 (today) at 15h00 and 18h00. Admission is free. – Caroline Smart