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Tuesday, October 8, 2019


(Durban based award winning Actress and Empatheatre co-director Mpume Mthombeni performing as Nolwandle, a marine educator who tells the story of her grandmother (a traditional healer from Kosi Bay) and her mother (a Zionist healer). We learn the long legacy of forced removals through her captivating performance. Pic by Retha Ferguson)

Lalela uLwandle (listen to the sea) is the new production from Empatheatre, a group of researcher-activist-theatre makers, which will tour coastal towns in KZN before having a formal theatre run in the UKZN’s Square Space Theatre from October 15 to 19, 2019.

Lalela uLwandle is an interactive immersive theatre and public storytelling experience, led by the Empatheatre collective. The project makes visible the stories of living with the ocean that are seldom heard in the public domain, drawing from seven months of collaborative action research into the lives of different KZN citizens along the coast. This project brings to the surface the lived realities of people involved directly and indirectly with the ocean, as well as creating a new social platform that makes public dialogue possible regarding collective pressing concerns regarding the ocean’s health.

The writing team, led by Neil Coppen with contributions from Helen Walne, Gcina Mhlophe, Mpume Mthombeni, Dylan McGarry, Taryn Pereira and Kira Erwin, pieced together oral histories, interviews, focus group discussions, archival research and traditional local stories into a rich and thickly described narrative of fictional characters hopes, dreams and concerns for KZN’s shared coastal and oceanic heritage.

The production is led by Dylan McGarry and Taryn Pereira at the Environmental Learning Research Centre, Rhodes University, in close collaboration with Kira Erwin at the Urban Futures Centre, Durban University of Technology and forms part of the One Ocean Hub, a global action research network led by Strathclyde University, and funded by the UKRI Global Challenge Research Fund.

After the show the audience are encouraged to participate in a public dialogue space facilitated by the research team from Rhodes University and the Durban University of Technology.

Lalela uLwandle is performed by Durban-based actors Mpume Mtombeni (playing Nowandle, and isiZulu marine educator with an ancestral heritage in Zulu mysticism), Alison Cassels (playing Faye, a retired marine scientist and recent widow) and Rory Booth (playing Niren, a young South Durban Indian social and environmental activist, and descendent of a long line of Durban Indian fisher folk). This talented and award-winning cast perform a captivating production based on the first-hand testimonials that have been crafted into a theatrical journey. As Coppen explains: “ a theatre based methodology that intentionally aims to inspire and develop a greater empathy and kindness in complex social learning spaces that are experiencing conflict or injustice.”

Design is by Dylan McGarry and Neil Coppen with costumes by Dylan McGarry and Diane Badenhorst. Lighting design is by Tina Le Roux, Stage Manager is Zenzo Msomi, and Sound Design is by Tristan Horton. The score has been written by Guy Buttery and Gary Thomas.

The Empatheatre team have been responsible for launching several high-profile social-justice theatre projects over the last decade including Soil & Ash (focusing on rural communities facing pressure from coal-mining companies), Ulwembu (street-level drug addiction), The Last Country (stories of migrant women) and now Lalela uLwandle (stories focusing on communities’ relationships with the ocean). All productions are in repertory.

For bookings contact Tamlynn Fleetwood on email: or on 079 186 4423


Port Shepstone Civic Centre
October 7: 12h00 & 18h00

Scottburgh High School
October 8: 12h00 & 18h00

Hluhluwe Environmental Education Centre
October 10: 12h00 & 18h00

Ezemvelo KZN venue
October 11: 12h00 & 18h00

Richards Bay Zululand Chamber of Commerce
October 12 at 15h00 & 19h00

Square Space at UKZN Howard College campus
October 15 at 12h00 & 19h00 (official opening- media/special guests)
October 16: 12h00 & 19h00
October 19: 12h00 & 19h00

uShaka Marine World
October 17: Bonus Performance at 09h00
October 18 at 19h00

For more information on Empatheatre visit