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Tuesday, May 25, 2021


(Above: Sbusiso Sithole as Bantu Africa with Hloniphani Mthethwa as the musician. Photo by Njabulo Mota)

The play is well-written and skillfully directed with Mziwakhe demanding a full range of emotional and physical talents from his main performer. (Review by Caroline Smart)

It was a great pleasure for me to revisit Stable Theatre after all these years. I was part of its revival team and was very happy to see that it is being taken care of and the theatre space is operating professionally. Observing correct Covid protocols, it’s a valuable space for performers in these difficult lockdown times.

The reason for my visit was to attend the opening of writer, director and drama facilitator Xola Mziwakhe’s production, Azania. A two-hour long event, it is presented in two parts. The first hour allows patrons to view an art exhibition and enjoy some energetic drumming from Steven Chauke and Lindokuhle Mbambo.

(Steven Chauke & Lindokuhle Mbambo. Pic by Pauline Dalais)

The exhibition, which takes place under cover in front of the theatre and is curated by visual artist Khulekani Mkhize and features some of his own works as well as those of Sphamandla Mkhize, Mncedisi Mkhize, Lindokuhle Mhlaba and Luyanda Maphumulo.

The images reflect issues in the play which starts in the second hour.

(Work by Khulekani Mkhize. Pic by Pauline Dalais)

Mziwakhe explains that Azania is an African story and considers it an honour to reflect African stories in an African Month. Bantu Africa is about a journey of hope as he searches for his daughter who disappeared during apartheid.

The play is well-written and skillfully directed with Mziwakhe demanding a full range of emotional and physical talents from his main performer. As Bantu Africa, Sbusiso Sithole certainly rises to the challenge and goes way beyond. A tall, imposing figure, his performance is riveting as he takes us through the frantic journey he undergoes to find his daughter who disappeared when she was in her early teens.

His wife died giving birth to Azania so the little girl became his whole world. His desperate search uncovers some shattering information and there is a powerful surprise at the end.

(Sbusiso Sithole. Photo by Njabulo Mota)

While Sithole is the main character of the play, his co-star is the talented guitarist Hloniphani Mthethwa. Draped in the South African flag, representing the democracy of today, his music follows the multiple moods of the story which range from requiring much energy as well as gentle sensitivity.

The lighting designer is Fezeka Shandu who makes strong use of the lighting technology to match the scenes.

Mziwakhe is an extremely promising theatre maker at the age of 24 with what I believe is a very successful future ahead of him. Originally from the Eastern Cape, he grew up in Durban.

He received his first arts award in grade 4 in a visual arts class. He started writing in grade 7 at Thobile Primary School, then went to Nqabakazu High School and through KCAP's school drama festivals he started to take drama as a career.

After Matric he enrolled at KCAP's Actors Incubation Mentorship Programme. After this, KCAP’s founder, Edmund Mhlongo, took him under his wing and mentored him in Directing. He is currently a Drama Facilitator at Ekhaya Multi Art Centre, developing young talent. He plans to have his own production house and art school in rural areas and give back to the community by offering his services and empowering the disadvantaged.

Azania, which is performed in English and isiZulu, was recently performed at the Playhouse in their New Stages Fringe programme. It was first seen at the Insika Man's Festival 2018 at KCAP when it received a promising actor award and best production. It was part of Playhouse CAF 2020 and appeared in the Zabalaza Theatre Festival at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town when it was nominated for best production, best Actor and best script.

The next three presentations take place on May 25 and 26 at 12h00 as well as on May 27 at 16h00. Tickets R80 (R60 students, R40 pp for block bookings). Bookings through Mziwakhe on 067 785 9020.

Stable Theatre is situated at 115 Johannes Nkosi Street (formerly Alice Street) in Greyville, Durban.

Azania’s run at Stable Theatre is funded by the NAC (PESP Grant), and supported by EThekwini Municipality, Arts and Living Cultures and KCAP. – Caroline Smart