Zabalaza Theatre Festival ready to dazzle audiences

Forty productions have been invited to take part in this year’s Baxter Zabalaza Theatre Festival, from Saturday March 12 to Friday March 18.

Among them will be the Mitchell’s Plain-based Ubuntu Arts.

The organisation was established in 2012 to help keep young people off the streets and away from the scourge of gangsterism while working towards integrating different communities.

The project was initiated by Bruce Geza and Robert January and the group operates from the Mitchell’s Plain Family and Youth Centre in Tafelsig.

Currently there are 16 youngsters between the ages of eight and 16 who will take to the stage to participate, for the first time, in this year’s Zabalaza Theatre Festival.

The Zabalaza team were so impressed with their production Silent Cries that they invited the group to participate in this year’s festival, selected from the mini-festivals held in January. The group has also been invited to perform at the Bergen Afro Arts Festival in Norway in June and they are working hard to raise funds so that they are able to present the work at that festival.

Performed in English, Afrikaans, Xhosa and Shona, the play deals with an incident which took place in Durban, where six people were burned to death and looks at it through the eyes of children.

Silent Cries will be among 40 productions from all over the Western Cape participating in this sixth annual Baxter Zabalaza Theatre Festival programme.

The hugely popular development festival kicks off with the Zabalaza Weekend on Saturday March 12 and Sunday March 13 when all venues and spaces in the theatre complex will pulsate with dynamic and diverse artistic activities featuring 26 productions.

The Zabalaza Main Festival features 17 productions and runs from Monday March 14 to Friday March 18 daily with shows on at 10am, 11.15am, 12.30pm, 3pm, 5pm, 6.30pm and 8pm.

The festival will boast multiple genres – from drama, poetry, hip hop, dance and musical theatre to physical theatre and theatre for children, performed in five different languages – English, Xhosa, Afrikaans, Zulu and Shona.

Some of the innovations in this year’s festival include three poetry sessions performed by Repetwah Movement, Ras M and Kaleidoscope Drama Group’s Ons Komvandaan as well as a magic show by Mawonga Gayiya.

Widely regarded as one of the leading theatre development platforms in South Africa, the week-long event promises to be jam-packed with outstanding young and rising talent. The productions were primarily selected from the eight mini-festivals which were held earlier this year in Robertson, Stellenbosch, Khayelitsha, Delft, Athlone, Mitchell’s Plain, Langa and Nyanga East. The winning productions from the Eden Drama Festival, the Cape Winelands Festival and the Overberg Drama Festival are also included in the line-up.

Khayalethu Anthony, who won the Fleur du Cap award for Best Performance in a review, cabaret or one-person show for The Champion, returns to the Zabalaza Theatre Festival in a guest performance with his latest production Naked Truth.

An adaptation and translation of Janice Honeyman’s Bangalory’s Back, which was part of the Baxter’s festive season line-up, will also be staged at the festival this year.

Adapted and translated into isiXhosa by Zoleka Helesi, Amabali Ethu is the perfect show for young children and pupils aged five to 12 and can be seen at 10am or 11.15am daily, from Monday March 14 to Friday March 18.

The core team behind the festival comprises artistic director Thami Mbongo, co-ordinator Zoleka Helesi, executive manager Bongile Mantsai, facilitator Mandisi Sindo and intern Laura de Vos.

Tickets for the festival are R30. Book at Computicket. For more information about the festival or to make school’s bookings for any of the festival shows, call Zoleka Helesi at 021 680 3980.