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Saturday, June 21, 2014


(Tafi Hanes & Nqobile Mthemba. Pic by Val Adamson)

Co-directors Roel Twijnstra and Jerry Pooe have created a hard-working and energetic team drawn from varied levels of ability and experience to present the first musical adaptation of Peter Abrahams’ ground-breaking novel, Mine Boy.

Mine Boy is a collaboration between the Wushwini Arts and Heritage Centre, the drama department of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Howard College campus and Stable Theatre. The cast is made up of independent artistes, members of Eager Artists and UKZN students.

Written in 1949, it was one of the first books to look at the conditions of blacks in South Africa a year after racial segregation was introduced. Roel Twijnstra, who is also in charge of set and costume design, adapted the novel and has portrayed the humour, noise, chaos, anger, passion and resilience of the times.

The leading character is Xuma who leaves his home to travel south to Johannesburg to find work. He is unfamiliar about city ways but soon learns what it means to have a black skin. He is taken in by a shebeen queen, Leah, who steers him towards her niece, Eliza. Forming a love triangle is the loyal Maisy.

Xuma finds work on the mines. He is good at his job and builds up an amicable relationship with his boss. A mine disaster unites one and all in a fever of resistance.

Heading the cast as Xuma and Leah are Tafi Hanes and Philisiwe Twijnstra who both deliver consistently strong and articulate performances. Philisiwe is particularly memorable in this role which reveals her skills as an actress, singer and dancer.

In a production that has some highly dramatic effects, other notable performances come from Sxaxa Henema, Chuma Mapoma, Nqobile Mthemba and Chris du Plessis. There are some vibrant dance sequences choreographed by Sifiso Majola together with the cast. Design and video projections are by Doung Jahangeer, photographs by Dean Hutton.

Most theatre venues have their challenges, especial those which have been converted into performance spaces - ie too big, too small, too wide – all of which impact on the acoustic value. Stable Theatre is a former disused electrical warehouse turned into a theatre space by the late Kessie Govender. The roof is extremely high and the walls are bare brick, all of which impacts on the acoustics.

Performers need to take this into consideration and ensure that their diction is clear and projected, which wasn’t always the case in Mine Boy. Another problem is that while the vocalised reactions from the ensemble are full of energy, they often drown the speech of those performers carrying important dialogue.

The actors also need to “find the light” – in terms of placing themselves or lifting their faces to the available light otherwise facial expressions and moods are lost.

Mine Boy runs at Stable Theatre with performances for the public tonight (June 21) at 19h00, tomorrow (June 22) at 15h00 and June 24 at 19h00.

Performances for schools take place on June 23 at 10h00 and 12h00 and June 24 at 10h00. Tickets R50 (R35pp for schools).

All bookings are through Stable Theatre on 031 309 2513 (office hours) and tickets will also be available at the door. – Caroline Smart

Performances at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre will run from September 26 to October 5. This production of Mine Boy is made possible through generous support from: KZN-DAC, City of Ethekwini, UKZN and Santam.