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Friday, May 29, 2015


(Menzi Mkhwane)

Secret Valley of Great Kings is a new South African play by Menzi Mkhwane son of veteran actor, director and theatre creator Bheki Mkhwane.

The young theatre creator is no stranger to writing new work. In 2011, he staged his first play Pockets of Knowledge co-written with Sabelo Ndlovu. The following year; he performed a one-man show, Looking into the Abyss, written again by himself and Ndlovu which premiered at the Musho! International Theatre Festival which won the audience award. He then embarked on a solo project where he spent two years constructing a new show called Last Cow Standing which he performed as a solo piece as well.

Last Cow Standing was nominated in three different categories at the Mercury Durban Theatre awards. As a text, Last Cow Standing was later placed on a writing platform set up by the Imbewu Trust 2014 called the Scribe Scriptwriting Competition; where it was chosen over hundreds of scripts in South Africa as one of the top five. The play successfully won third place and as part of the award Menzi has been allocated with a writing mentor (multi-award winning writer, producer, director and theatre maker Neil Coppen) who will work closely with him to improve the script and help his work grow. Menzi Mkhwane says “Every year I dedicate time to look into an issue in society that interests me and then I explore it through theatre.”

This year, Menzi Mkhwane looks at the issue of civil war in African countries in his latest play Secret Valley of Great Kings. This time around he won’t be on stage but has put together a team of 11 actors and one musician in a project he calls a “Theatre experience.”

Mkhwane says: “I believe it’s possible to tell a story with heavy issues in a riveting and interesting way that does not bore our tire an audience out. I always follow my impulses when it comes to story-telling and they always tell me what the show will look like at the end, but it’s always up to the audience to decide for themselves how they receive the work, but I prefer to explain less and allow people to see the work and make their own interpretations. But the most important thing to keep in mind is that; Theatre should always be a sensory experience a not an intellectual one, and if it doesn’t entertain first then Theatre isn’t doing what it is supposed to be doing.”

The show carries a strong message of hope and also has humour as much as it has crit. The whole play will be performed by the eight actors in a balanced mixture of African languages including, African French, African Portuguese, Swahili, Chechewu and Shona. There is also a praise poet who sings the kings praises in a mixture of three of these languages. To achieve this; the actors have been spending months with foreign nationals in South Africa from countries all over Africa recording – and, in many cases interviewing them, in order to master the sounds and dialects of the accents they will be performing in.

A strong musical element will accompany the production with experienced music maker Nhlanhla Slayelo Zondi.

Secret Valley of Great Kings runs in the Playhouse Loft from September 2 to 6. Booking is open at Computicket.