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Wednesday, December 26, 2012


(2013 Standard Bank Young Artist for Drama – Prince Lamla. Pic: Suzy Bernstein)

2013 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Theatre, Simthembile Prince Lamla (31), underscores the importance of the mentors who have helped him tailor his success and to discover new professional opportunities in his career. He started his acting and directing career at a community theatre group in the late 90’s in Qwaqwa.

“I never saw this award coming. It is a key in this industry. I am happy that it came at this stage in my life where I am very hungry to direct more and more plays. I am going to use this award as a motivation to work even harder. I wish my late best friend, Ofentse Bodibe, was still alive to celebrate this moment with me. He is the only guy who knows more than everyone what this award means to me,” said Lamla.

“Theatre chose me. I did not know what I was getting myself into, but I remember enjoying myself every single day,” he adds. “At that point in my life I did not have any training in theatre but believed I was doing the right thing. My love for theatre, hunger, passion, commitment, hard work and so forth was unbelievable. It was so amazing to see a simple idea of a story being born and then grow into a play. And then see this play making a huge impact in the community. Really this was inspiring and encouraging for us to create more plays.”

After training at the Market Theatre Laboratory, Lamla got an opportunity through the Laboratory to attend a short course at the Stockholm Stadsteater to explore text and interpretation. On his return from Sweden, he discovered his potential as a director when he returned to Qwaqwa. This is when he met the late Ofentse Bodibe, and they co-directed a number of plays, including Coal Yard that went on to win the Market Theatre Laboratory’s Zwakala Festival in 2005, premiering at the Market Theatre’s Laager to rave reviews and thereafter playing at PACOFS and for a season at the National Arts Festival. Coal Yard was nominated at the 2006 Naledi Awards for Best Cutting Edge Production.

“The whole experience at the Market Theatre Laboratory’s Community Theatre Festival was a life changing experience for me. I was inspired. The atmosphere was electrifying. It was my first time seeing a proper theatre building. I also learned about the mainstream. Everything I saw over there affirmed what I was already doing in my life in Qwaqwa regarding theatre,” said Lamla.

He became a member of the Market Theatre’s Writers’ Forum under the guidance of Craig Higginson and participated at the Market Theatre in the workshopping of a new play Train To 2010, by Ricardo Khan from the US. With support from the Market Theatre Foundation, he visited the Schauspielhaus in Vienna to work as an assistant director on Family Table in 2006. Another opportunity from the Market Foundation came up when he visited Live Theatre in Newcastle for the rehearsal period as a director assistant on Blackbird which was performed at the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown and also played at the Market Theatre’s Laager in 2007.

“The significant people who have influenced my understanding of theatre are Mncedisi Shabangu, Yael Faber, Lara Foot, Jeremy Herin, Paul Grootboom, Mbongeni Ngema, Peter Brook, Brecht, Jerzy Growtoski. The list is endless. All of these people had an influence on my art one way or the other. They are extremely talented and their vision regarding theatre is clear, and the stories they have told still rings true. You can sense honesty in their works. I can hear an artist’s child in each individual’s work. The human element in their stories is sound. It is not only about their stories. The styles they use to tell their stories are different and well thought of,” said Lamla.

Lamla was invited to direct a staged reading of the play The Mirror as part of 2007’s NLDTF/PANSA Festival of Contemporary Readings Competition. He was given an opportunity to further his career and gain more experience by workshopping and directing Nativity with 2007 interns at the Sibikwa Arts Centre. After the success of Nativity, he was called back to workshop and direct an HIV/AIDS production with the 2008 interns.

“It is very important to know where theatre comes from in this country. My concern about this generation is that the majority seem not to know much about theatre. The culture of going to theatre in this country is only known by a few,” said Lamla. “So the role I am playing in this generation in terms of shaping the future of South Africa’s artistic landscape is that as much as I am telling stories in the mainstream theatre, it is also important to take development very seriously in order to produce actors, writers, directors and future audiences,” he added.

Fresco Theatre Company invited him on board as an assistant director on The Famished Road and it had a successful run at the National Arts Festival in 2009. He joined the Market theatre Laboratory’s Community Theatre Development program as a Fieldworker in 2011. Later in 2011, he was invited by GOMACC (Gauteng Organisation of Community Theatre) to mentor five student directors.

In 2012 he directed Woza Albert! at the Market Theatre, that went on to set a record at the Market Theatre for sold out houses, rave reviews and having had the longest run ever at the Theatre. Woza Albert! ended its run at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland.

When asked about what he thinks drama should do, Lamla is passionately adamant: “Tell stories that will be able to unite and resonate in the now South Africa. Stories that will ring true and remind us where we are as a country and where do we want to go. Tell stories that will bring sense of belief, identity, abundance and so forth. Stories that will bring audiences to the theatre and also stories that can be performed anywhere in South Africa, be it in a community hall, under a tree and so on,” he said.

“I would like to thank everyone who had a hand in shaping up my career directly and indirectly. The Market Theatre Foundation has been very instrumental in my writing and directing. Thanks to Professor Malcolm Purkey and Craig Higginson for the risk they took in giving me an opportunity to direct Woza Albert! at the Market Theatre. Thanks to the late Ofentse Bodibe. This award is dedicated to him. I know he is proud of me. Thanks to the panel that selected me as the Standard Bank Young Artist Award recipient. And thanks to Standard Bank,” said Lamla.

The winners of The Standard Bank Young Artist Awards feature on the main programme of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and receive financial support for their Festival participation, as well as a cash prize. For more information on the National Arts Festival, click on the banner advert at the top of this page.