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Tuesday, October 15, 2013


(Satchu Annamalai, Jayashree Govender & Yugan Naidoo. Pic by Clinton Marius)

Thanks to sponsorship from the National Arts Council and support funding from the KZN Performing Arts Trust, Stable Theatre will honour its founder, Kessie Govender, by presenting a revival of his first play Stablexpense at the end of November.

“We are very proud to have been given permission by Kessie Govender’s family to do this work, which represents the first time any of his plays have been performed since his death in 2002,” says Stable Theatre Centre Manager, Thanduxolo Zulu. “Without Kessie Govender, Stable Theatre itself would not exist and it is fitting that we honour him in his own home, as it were.”

One of Durban’s cultural struggle icons, actor, director and playwright Kessie Govender was fearless in his refusal to perform in front of segregated audiences as was the apartheid law at the time. In the mid-1970’s, Kessie Govender started his own company, the Stable Theatre. Its first location was on Queen Street (Denis Hurley Street) then West Street (Dr Pixley KaSeme Street) until Kessie discovered an abandoned electrical warehouse in Princess Alice (now Johannes Nkosi) Street. He moved in with his Stable Theatre Company and refused to vacate the premises, despite efforts by the Corporation to evict him. He eventually claimed squatters’ rights and won his case.

This is where Stable Theatre is today. It became the first independent black-owned theatre company in South Africa.

First performed in 1974, Stablexpense makes a biting comment of the fact that the Durban Municipality of the time allocated more money to the building of a stable for a horse than it did to one of the new low-cost houses for Indians in Chatsworth after their eviction from areas rezoned for whites only.

The story deals with two friends – Vadi and Marnie – who are dirt-bin collectors. They are simple uneducated folk with a cheerful and pragmatic outlook on life who look upon their Lahnee (boss) with awe and reverence. That’s until things start to go wrong …

Satchu Annamalai will revive his performance as Vadi, the role originally performed by Kessie Govender, with Yugan Naidoo also revisiting his relationship with the play as Marnie. Samantha Govender plays Vadi’s wife and Naren Sunker takes the part of their son Thiru with Warrick Franck playing the role of Marnie’s son, Rama.

The production is co-directed by the late Kessie Govender’s wife, Jayashree Govender, and Caroline Smart. Reflecting on their creative partnership Jayashree comments on the balance between herself and Caroline: “Caroline has technical skill in the tradition of stage production and I have a sense of the cultural nuances and peculiarities that will bring what is now in essence a period play, a piece of history to life.”

Stablexpense runs at Stable Theatre at 115 Johannes Nkosi Street from November 22 to 30. Tickets R50 (R40 pensioners/students/scholars) booked through Computicket. For block bookings (R40pp for more than 10) contact Stable Theatre on 031 309 2513 or email or