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Friday, May 1, 2015


(John Kani in “Missing”. Pic by Oscar O'Ryan)

The sheer quality and variety of theatre on offer at The Playhouse Company's annual New Stages Festival in Durban seems to get better and better every year and the new series beginning in May is certainly no exception.

Audiences can look forward to feast of creative, original and thought-provoking productions, as well as a hit comedy, each one focusing on issues facing South Africa today.

The theatrical extravaganza of music, dance and drama, features some of the country's best known talents on stage including such household names as Dr John Kani, Atandwa Kani, Nat Ramabulana and Susan Danford as well as a host of professional artists in various art forms.

The New Stages festival is unique and relevant because most of the productions carry a profoundly powerful message for South Africans, touching on such pertinent themes like transformation, race relations, social cohesion and the experience of exiles returning to new challenges in our nascent democracy.

Linda Bukhosini, Playhouse CEO and Artistic Director, explains that special emphasis was given to identifying productions that are of high artistic quality, had enjoyed acclaim and recognition in the wider performing arts industry and were relevant to the theme of the country's new dispensation.

Here's a summary of the four "must see" productions on offer:

HAYANI – Playhouse Loft on May 6 & 7 (for schools) and May 7 to 10 for general public. PG age restriction.
If vibrant home-grown theatre is your scene, a play by Atandwa Kani, Warren Nebe and Nat Ramabulana entitled Hayani is worth watching.

 Hayani, which means “home” in Venda, is an original play reflecting on the meaning of "home" in the South African context, and what it means to be a South African.

It tells the story of two young black South African men trying to establish themselves in a country that is yet to define itself. Their journeys begin with each of them taking a trip back “home” as they weave their personal narratives and try to better understand who they are.

Hayani, which is written and directed by Kani and Ramabulana, features evocative live music composed by Matthew Macfarlane. It was originally directed by Nebe, designed by Mak1 and produced by Drama for Life at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Kani explains: “Home is where the heart is, is the central theme of the play. Where is your true home? How do you find it? How do you keep from leaving it? These are some of the questions which we explore in Hayani. It is really the voice of a generation nearly lost and forgotten, and which is yearning to be heard. For us, this is home-grown storytelling at its truest, a homecoming story which we hope will tug at raw heartstrings and which is honest.”

The play enjoyed phenomenal success when it was performed previously in South Africa and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2014.

MISSING – Playhouse Drama from May 12 to 15 (for schools) and May 15 to 17 for general public. PG age restriction.
This new South African production, which has been performed at the Baxter and Market Theatre, sees Tony-award-winning actor and writer, Dr John Kani at his very best.

It's his first full-length play since his Nothing But The Truth in 2002, which received numerous accolades locally and abroad.

In Missing, Kani teams up with theatre bluebloods, Janice Honeyman (director) and Mannie Manim (lighting designer) to bring to life this intriguing love story cum political thriller. It tells the story of an exiled comrade who returns to South Africa with his Swedish wife and engaged daughter. Expecting to take up an illustrious new career in the newly democratic government, he finds an unexpected rival in one of his closest ex-comrades.

The play raises several important issues faced by those who went into exile and who hoped to be recalled by the ANC to join the government and take up a new life in a now democratic South Africa.

The cast features Kani as Robert Khalipa, Susan Danford as his Swedish wife, Anna Ohlson, and newcomer Buhle Ngaba as their daughter, Ayanda, a medical student. Apollo Ntshoko plays Peter Tshabalala, a young comrade and Robert's assistant in the ANC office in Stockholm.

Others who play accompanying roles are Bongani Bennedict Masango (writer, director and composer), Moses “Strike Moshe” Tholo (musical director, music arranger and composer), Percy Mthunzi (music arranger and composer) and Thamsanqa Langeni (music arranger and producer).

BHAKTI: Playhouse Drama on May 28 & 29 (for schools) and May 29 to 31 for general public.
This award-winning dance-theatre production, celebrating the incredible fusion of KZN's diverse cultures, has to be seen and heard to be believed. While politicians continue to grapple with the complexities of social cohesion in KwaZulu-Natal, the arts have come up with a winning formula to bring diverse communities together under the umbrella of a new democracy.

Twenty of Durban's finest and most skilled contemporary dancers collaborate with some of the city's most talented and classically-trained musicians and dancers to create a joyous, seamless inter-cultural fusion of dance, the spoken word, film and music that promises to take Durban by storm.

This intriguing collaboration joins dancers from the Flatfoot Dance Company and the Playhouse Dance Residency whose movements will be fused with the sounds of the djembe drum (played by Mandla Matsha), the Indian tabla (Vishen Kemraj), the South African maskanda guitar (Madala Kunene), African and contemporary dance and classical Indian dancers and the spoken word from poet Iain Ewok Robinson

First created by choreographer, Lliane Loots in 2010, Bhakti went on to win one of the coveted Ovation Awards at the National Arts Festival a year later. 

THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS: Playhouse Loft from May 21 to 24. Age restriction of 10 years
The New Stages Festival is never complete without a generous dose of good old-fashioned laughter and fun. And who better to dish this up than South Africa's funniest entertainment duo of Aaron McIlroy and Lisa Bobbert with their latest comedy offering, 7 Deadly Sins

This wicked new comedy revolves around the age-old sins of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. Join McIlroy and Bobbert as they take audiences on a side-splitting journey through life to discover why people very rarely, if ever, stick to the straight and narrow path of morality and virtue.

Adding value to the evening’s entertainment package will be a line-up of satirical visual production elements as well as a selection of musical items, including MacBob renderings of songs such as Shaggy’s Hey, Sexy Lady, Britney Spears’ Work B**ch. and Toxic, and Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, among others.

Tickets for all productions are available through Computicket. For specials and block booking discounts call 031 369 9596 / 031 369 9540 / 031 369 9456