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Thursday, June 18, 2020


This year the National Arts Festival has gone virtual. The Shopping Dead is one of two exciting productions on the programme that utilise the ubiquitous texting platform WhatsApp as its stage. The Shopping Dead is co-produced by the National Arts Festival, presented as part of the Virtual National Arts Festival 2020.

 With theatres closed and the world confined to their houses, Faye Kabali-Kagwa was interested in producing a theatrical project that took place where many people are most active - their phones. Kabali-Kagwa believes that this low-budget approach to storytelling makes this model appealing for both audiences and artists alike. It provides a cost-effective alternative to streaming for audiences, while allowing for imaginative and creative interpretation by artists. Rather than employ physical bodies, these plays allow for the virtual world to be brought to life as text, voice notes, GIFS, memes, and pictures are used to create a memorable theatrical experience.

 The WhatsApp work presented at this year’s virtual NAF, The Shopping Dead, is a satirical look at the current global pandemic that cleverly uses recognizable zombie story tropes. The story follows four retail store employees whose working lives are interrupted when an American customer walks in carrying a mutated version of the Corona virus. Through humour and clever insight, this play critiques the lengths that global superpowers are willing to go in order to take control of the African continent.

 Kabali-Kagwa has brought together a dynamic, talented team of young black womxn to bring this production to the screen. Having previously written for Hani: The Legacy (2018 Naledi Award winner, 2017 Standard Bank Gold Ovation Award Winner), and Pop iCherri (Student Merit Award for Best Original Work at NAF 2017), The Shopping Dead is quite a departure for Market Theatre alum Ncumisa Ndimeni. Ndimeni writes with a clever wit and a sharp focus.

 Cape Town-based academic and theatre-maker Lesego Chauke steps in as the director. Although this is her first project as a producer, Kabali-Kagwa has worked as a project coordinator on multiple international and local theatre festivals, such as NAF and Cradle of Creativity, through her work with ASSITEJ South Africa.

 The cast is made up of four versatile actors: Tankiso Mamabolo (The Fall, Aunty Merle it’s a Girl), Chris Djuma (The Kings of the World, The Mzansi Awards), Kathleen Stephens (Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare in Love), and Kiroshan Naidoo (Lalela Ulwande, The Eulogists).

 For each performance, the audience will be added to the employee WhatsApp group chat, where they watch as silent voyeurs. Early bird ticket sales and a browsing of the National Arts Festival programme will be available from June 18, 2020, at

 Performance Dates at vNAF:

July 2– 19h00

July 3– 19h00

July 4– 11h00

 For more information around booking tickets and vNAF 2020 visit

 For further enquiries about The Shopping Dead contact Faye Kabali-Kagwa at

 Follow on:

Facebook -

Instagram - @theshoppingdead





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