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Tuesday, September 30, 2014


(Review from the artSMart team covering the 2014 Witness Hilton Arts Festival which ran at Hilton College from September 19 to 21)

All credit to TQ Zondi and Mpilo Nzimande for their versatility and riveting performances. (Review by Pauline Dalais)

Woza Albert, a Hexagon Theatre under the excellent direction of Peter Mitchell and featuring TQ Zondi and Mpilo Nzimande, was presented at the recent Witness Hilton Arts Festival.

Under the guidance and direction of Barney Simon, Mbongeni Ngema and Percy Mtwa’s Woza Albert was first produced in 1981 at the Market Theatre. Since then it has deservedly won numerous awards and reached a world-renowned status.

Though we are 20 years into democracy, a production like this is important to remind the “born frees” of the apartheid era, bringing to life people’s suffering, sacrifices, challenges and emotions as well as the struggles that so many went through to finally achieve a democratic South Africa. Not to mention the restrictions of curfews and the dreaded dompas.

Woza Albert (meaning “Rise, Albert!”) sends a powerful message about the seriousness of apartheid, while showing people’s sense of survival and capacity to find humour in difficult situations. The actors confidently play a range of characters from policemen or ordinary people on the street, to a servant or a domineering white boss.

They also created their own sound effects, like travelling and conversing on a train or in a car, which was fascinating.

The thread that runs through the play is the second coming of Morena (the Saviour) who they believe will change their lives. Each character reacts individually, one being a Doubting Thomas and the other a firm believer. This interaction often created much humour.

The arrival of the Saviour (courtesy of SAA) becomes more foreboding as his life is relived in an apartheid context. There was an extremely moving scene in the graveyard when Morena came in looking for Lazarus and identified the resting places of struggle heroes.

All credit to TQ Zondi and Mpilo Nzimande for their versatility and riveting performances. However, I did feel the end was a bit too rushed. I would have liked that played out more.

A Hexagon Theatre production, Woza Albert was supported by the Department of Arts & Culture. – Pauline Dalais