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Monday, March 12, 2012


(Snelisiwe Radebe and Tamsanqa Silindane in a scene from “The Seed”)

Latoya Newman covers the Phambili Theatre Festival (Courtesy of Tonight)

When the Stable Theatre in Durban central came under a team of new management in late 2010 and started picking up its socks, it was clear by the drive of the team that nothing was going to hinder the revamp. That we recently enjoyed the second instalment of the (now annual) Phambili Youth Theatre Festival is proof that the once run-down theatre is on its way to resuming its position as a key developer of the arts in Durban.

The 2012 leg of the Fest kicked off this weekend in the recently refurbished and newly equipped 200-seater theatre.

Since its R4 million funding boost for an upgrade last year, those in the frontlines have ensured it's all put to good use. But with a team comprising the best stalwarts in the industry with the likes of Jerry Pooe, Caroline Smart, Thuli Dumakude, to name just a few - what more could be expected but excellence.

The Phambili Youth Theatre Festival is a festival by young people and is presented by Stable Theatre in association with Twist Projects. This year the festival opened with the launch of Zulu Crush, a book by international theatre practitioner Roel Twijnstra of Theatregroep Siberia from Holland.

This year, the festival also introduced Twist Projects' New Scripts book and hosted a grand opening of the festival by one of Durban's most powerful and talented theatre groups - Umsindo Theatre Productions from Umlazi C Section. Local theatre supporters would remember the group from their amazing stories and performances told in productions like To Be Like This Rock (Standard Bank Ovation Award at the 2011 Grahamstown Festival) which exposes truths on child trafficking.

This year, led by Musawenkosi and Bongumusa Shabalala, and Xolani Dlongolo, Umsindo presented The Seed (written by Amy Jephta). Dlongolo said the play delves into issues of HIV/Aids and the stigma attached to it. "We work with kids who are HIV positive and their parents, so we felt there is a need to do this kind of production...The reaction from the youngsters who worked on this play was very emotional, we had to even take them for counselling. And it is like this because we are touching on real issues here, we are not beating about the bush."

In the play a father goes to the city to work where he engages with a prostitute. He returns home with a seed (HIV) that ploughed into his family with extensive effects.

"In our communities we are battling high crime rates, HIV/Aids, Woonga (a drug cocktail of antiretrovirals mixed with other drugs)... these are huge problems. We urge our own communities to come to the Festival and come watch these plays that speak to our issues," said Dlongolo.

Emma Durden from Twist Theatre Development Projects said supporting community theatre is an opportunity for people to see the kind of theatre that is being created in townships and peri-Urban areas. "The tickets are affordable and it is a great way of supporting people who are on the cusp of breaking into the profession."

This year, the festival introduces work from the Wushwini Arts and Culture Heritage Centre located in the mountains and rural surrounds of KwaNgcolosi on Wushwini Road (overlooking the Inanda Dam).

Siyakha Performing Artists, Emuhle All Artists, Uthando Lwabaqulusi, Big Brotherhood and Ubuntu Besizwe Productions were presented by Twist Projects shared a stage with groups from the Stable Theatre and K-CAP.

One of the co-ordinators at the Stable, Khetiwe Hlatshwayo, said: "We as a theatre are providing a platform for these youth productions to be seen on a professional platform and by a more mature audience. Also one of the arms is for potential sponsors to come along and see what these youth have to offer. At the end of the day you do Arts not just for the love of it, but to be able to put bread on the table and for many of these youth the Arts could offer just that." -