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Friday, November 22, 2013


(Satchu Annamalai, Samantha Govender, Warrick Frank, 
Naren Sunker & Yuban Naidoo. Pic by Val Adamson)

Enjoyable and authentic production which should be enjoyed by all. (Review by Keith Millar)

There is a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in the air in Johannes Nkosi Street at Stable Theatre at present. The mission to honour the founder of this theatre, the late Kessie Govender, has come to fruition as the revival of his first play, Stablexpense, opened this week.

Kessie Govender was one of Durban’s cultural struggle icons. He was an actor, director, playwright, artist and poet. Abilities which he used fearlessly in the fight against apartheid. In the mid 1970’s he started his own theatre company, the Stable Theatre. It was housed at different locations until he found an abandoned electrical warehouse in Princess Alice Street (now Johannes Nkosi Street).in Durban. With the help of friends and family, he renovated this building and despite efforts by the authorities to evict him, it became the home of The Stable Theatre. The first independent black-owned theatre company in South Africa.

It is at this inspiring and vibrant cultural centre that Stablexpense is currently being staged with sponsorship from the National Arts Council and support funding from the KZN Performing Arts Trust.

First performed in 1974, Stablexpense takes place in Chatsworth in 1971 amid the low-cost housing which was built to accommodate Indians who had been evicted from areas rezoned as whites only. The play itself is a comment on the fact that the Durban Municipality allocated less money for building each house than it did for a stable for a horse.

The play features two friends who are dustbin collectors. They are simple, uneducated chaps who enjoy nothing more than sitting together in front of their houses after a hard day’s work, for a chat and a dop (a drink).They admire and revere their Lahnee (boss) who is the white driver of their rubbish truck. They will hear no wrong of him until he proves to have feet of clay and this results in a wedge being driven into their friendship.

The two friends, Vadi and Marnie, are played by Satchu Annamalai and Yugan Naidoo. Both are veterans of the Durban theatre scene and bring all their experience to bear in creating likable and good-natured characters for the two dustmen. There is plenty of humour in the production, and none more so than when Annamalai describes in word and action the strip show he inadvertently saw at the Lahnee’s party.

Vadi’s activist son is played with anger and venom by Naren Sunker while Marnie’s son, who is a more gentle character, is played by Warrick Frank. Samantha Govender is Vadi’s long-suffering wife.

Stablexpense is co-directed by theatre personality Caroline Smart and Jayashree Govender who is the widow of playwright Kessie Govender. Both Caroline’s theatre expertise and Jayashree’s inside knowledge of the times are apparent in the authentic feel of this production. The imaginative set certainly evokes the ambience of Chatsworth while the clever use of sound effects also helps to set the scene.

This is the first time in the 11 years since his death that one of Kessie Govender’s plays has been staged and is part of his family’ intention to revive and honour his works.

This initiative certainly deserves support. Besides that, it is an enjoyable and authentic production which should be enjoyed by all.

Stablexpense runs at Stable Theatre at 115 Johannes Nkosi Street until November 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

There is safe off-street parking. For directions (to navigate the approach via various one-way streets) visit – Keith Millar