Back by popular demand, Joburg Theatre is proud to present Woza Albert! by Percy Mtwa, Mbongeni Ngema and Barney Simon, on The Fringe Theatre stage from Friday 1 June – Sunday 17 June.
Woza Albert! will always remain as one of the most vibrant examples of satirical anti-apartheid South African Theatre, demonstrating innovation and creativity during one of the most pivotal and ground-breaking periods of theatre in this country.
Woza Albert! is still a relevant story today, which is why it’s a school set-work in the South African GDE school curriculum, and therefore essential viewing for learners. The theatre piece offers a great tool for audience development while assisting with the school curriculum. The play portrays so much truth and clarifies a simple approach to the human condition, therefore making it continually relevant to South Africa.
Segomotso Modise and Hamilton Dlamini play the roles of various black South Africans – a vendor, barber, domestic worker, manual labourer and soldier – each receiving the news that Christ (Morena) has arrived in South Africa, where they live under a Calvinist, white elite imposed apartheid.
2018 SAFTA award winner for Best Actor – TV Soap/Telenovela, Hamilton Dlamini, had a starring role as bumbling private investigator TT in the Mzansi Magic comedy series Boomba and TT, in 2012. In 2015 he had a starring role as Mnqobi Simelane, a self-made man in his 40s who is in a polygamous marriage with two wives and a possible third, in the e.tv drama series Umlilo.
Segomotso Modise started his theatre career in 2005 starring in a production titled ‘Question Mark’ which earned him the award best actor in the leading role in the stop crime drama festival. In 2014 he made his musical debut when he starred in MARIKANA – THE MUSICAL by Aubrey Sekhabi which walked away with 6 Naledi awards, and after a sensational performance in the musical he was called to star in the recent musical TAKING BACK THE FUTURE by Tshepo Ratona and Presley Chweneyagae. His television work includes an awareness ad for children and women abuse and a Guest appearance in a popular local sitcom Ga Re Dumele. His international tours include Germany, Amsterdam, Austria, Poland and the UK, with various acclaimed award winning plays like ‘Interracial’ & ‘Rocksburg’, to name just a couple.
These two theatre veterans make it easy for audiences to relate in the new South Africa, where people are desperate for a better life despite their political freedom. The parts played by Bheki and Hamilton show off their skills in acting, mime, singing and dance. They also have the unique ability to create images using a few words and actions.
The play is a political satire that imagines the second coming of Christ in apartheid-era South Africa. It looks at a wide range of characters in South Africa at the beginning of the 1980s and attacks the pass laws that prevented Black people from moving freely at the time. The production uses the metaphor of Morena (Jesus) to show what would happen if he came back to South Africa during apartheid. Would he like what he saw? And if he saw the atrocities of the time then why would he not do anything about them?
Woza Albert! will be on stage at The Fringe Theatre @ Joburg Theatre from 1 – 17 June 2018.
There are morning performances on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 11h00.
Fridays and Saturdays at 20h00.
Sundays at 15h00.
Five enormous, glittering stars to Fiona Ramsay who portrays the tortured Stella Goldschlag, reminiscing about her shadowy past in war-torn Berlin.
Stella seems to have lived a rather comfortable post-war life, so what is it that has brought all these dark memories into the light. Apparently a phone call from a long forgotten admirer: a little boy in the snow, who she mockingly remembers, shyly telling her in his cracked voice “I love you Stella.” The awkward child of the past is now a respected journalist, wanting to hear her story of survival.
We think we’ve heard it all, don’t we, those Holocaust stories, strength of spirit, desperation, inspiration found in the deepest, darkest depths of evil and despair. But Stella’s story is one very seldom brought to light. We hear her description of what it was like to live as a ‘U-Boat’ – an illegal, under-the-radar Jewish citizen; her refusal to back down from her arrogant assumption that beauty will excuse her every fault, even that of being a Jew.
Eventually, inevitably, though, Stella’s luck runs out. Being an Aryan-looking blonde can only get you so far, and then those efficient Nazi lists did tend to catch up with you. And she quickly learns that jealousy and betrayal come to all beautiful girls. But when she’s offered an alternative to the death camps, for both her parents and herself, she’s willing to do whatever it takes to save their lives. So she becomes a “greifer”, a “catcher” for the Gestapo. After all, she says, she knows where all the Jews can be found, where they gather, where they live, who better for the job?
But now, in the present, the echoes of the past are catching up with her, she’s plagued by whispers of yesteryear, asking “How can you live with yourself?” as she begs us to consider: “What would you have done?”
Ramsay presents a chilling portrayal of a ruthless, cold-hearted traitor … or does she? In more light-hearted moments one can almost wonder. Perhaps she was less a traitor, and just another casualty of war, doing all she could to survive? The audience must come to terms with the horrific realisation of what moral code was in play at the time, if any. The riveting scene unfolding onstage keeps one so absolutely enthralled that there’s barely time to even comprehend the stark reality of what Stella needed to confront, both in her past and her present.
Gail Louw’s Blonde Poison is a multi-faceted, mesmerising piece; one that will leave audiences with much to consider for quite some time after they’ve left the theatre. Director Janna Ramos-Violante has done a sterling job, ensuring that the depths do not plummet too low for too long, nor do the lighter moments allow audiences to lose focus. Ramsay’s movement through the simple, but functional set flows easily, and one is never left guessing as to her intent.
Blonde Poison will run at the Auto & General Theatre on the Square from 10th January – 4th February 2017. There will be 6 performances per week – Tuesdays to Fridays at 8.15pm and two shows on Saturdays at 6pm and 8.15pm. Enquire about dinner show specials and group discounts. Call the theatre on 011 883-8606 or book online: www.computicket.com or tel. the call centre: 0861 915 8000
A Review of Saturday Night Fever, currently on stage at the South African State Theatre
I’ll start off with a confession – I’ve never seen the film version of Saturday Night Fever!! Shock, horror, yes … you can all pick up your jaws and close your mouths now! I didn’t see John Travolta do the whole strut thing in the iconic 3-piece white suit, I only saw the stills; I didn’t hear the Bee Gees’ soundtrack played in its original backdrop format. Hence, when I heard the adapted radio versions, I had no clue of their actual depth or meaning. But that’s all ancient history, relegated to what had become that somewhat lacklustre Disco file of the late 70’s, when I was %$# years old!
Roll on to September 2016 and Bernard Jay’s production of Saturday Night Fever hits the Opera Theatre of The South African State Theatre … I’m now $%*@ years old, and I’m damn excited about it all! Disco’s back! It’s fun, fab, retro and groovy (ok, I know, nobody uses that word)! Glitter balls, go-go boots, big hair and colour, lots and lots of colour!
The storyline goes roughly something like this (just in case you’re part of the uninformed minority):
It’s June 1977, the hottest summer on record and New York is sizzling. Down in the boroughs racial tension is brewing, jobs are scarce and people are angry. Money’s tight, hope seems like a foolish luxury and the only light on the horizon is the glittering disco ball above the dance floor in the club where Tony Manero and his crew, The Faces, hang out on a Saturday night. Tony is ‘da man’. He struts, he moves, he grooves, and everyone else is in awe, especially Annette. Unfortunately, he would prefer the aloof Stephanie Mangano to be as awestruck, but that’s going to take a bit of work on his part. Throw in a side-plot or two, some angst, some religious guilt and there you have it! Oh, and don’t forget all that unforgettable Bee Gees music – Staying Alive, Night Fever, More Than A Woman, Disco Inferno, What Kind of Fool … and of course, many more.
And it’s all here, everything that can be crammed into a nutshell stage show, and Jay has pulled no punches with putting together a theatrical dream team for this creation. Sarah Roberts’ costumes are spot-on, instantly transporting you to that era of (slightly embarrassing) flares, high waists and wide lapels. Award-winning director Greg Homann proves that he’s clearly able to cast his net a lot wider than solely serious theatre. In this, his musical directing debut, he’s done a sterling job. Musical maestro Rowan Bakker, assisted by Drew Bakker directs his 8-piece band with pacey, up-beat panache through, what for many, is a trip down a music memory lane (by the way … just a quick shout out to Trombone player Dan Selsick … you know, trombone players never get mentioned, so … hi). The energetic, vibrant cast are put through their paces by choreographer Weslee Lauder, who ensures that every step, lift, spin and turn is executed with slick precision.
But oh my word … that set!! Denis Hutchinson has created a living, breathing entity that surges around the stage as if it is its own entirely separate, individual character! It opens, shuts, slides, rises, sinks, splits – I almost wanted to ask it to make me a cup of coffee! It is an innovation of design genius, enhanced by ingenious, strategic lighting.
And to populate this epic masterpiece, one needs a bunch of gorgeous looking talent, which we have in shovel-loads. The cast is a cohesive and comfortable ensemble, ably navigating the ups and downs that their characters endure, as the audience is quickly swept up and into their lives, their struggles and their triumphs. Accolades must go to:
Daniel Buys, playing an understated Tony. There’s every opportunity for him to overplay the role, but he reigns it in, allowing his talent and charm to shine through whether he’s taking to the floor at the 2001 Odyssey nightclub, or singing his poignant solo rendition of ‘Tragedy’.
LJ Nielsen, for her touching portrayal of the sweet but vacuous Annette, who has yet to discover who she really is. Nielsen’s beautiful, rich voice certainly can’t fail to catch the audience’s attention, even though Annette failed to catch Tony’s. And I have to say, I particularly loved her facial expressions. They just added an extra nuance to her entire performance!
Natasha van der Merwe for her perfect depiction of the ‘on the surface’ cool and collected Stephanie Mangano, while below that tough exterior she’s paddling for all she’s worth! Stephanie epitomises every ‘Tony’ trying to improve his life, determined not to be dragged back to where they started from, but struggling between a new life and acknowledgement of their roots. Van der Merwe gets it right on all levels, striking a balance between tentative and determined and finishing strong.
Kiruna-Lind Devar, the sweet-faced and even sweeter voiced Pauline who only wants to do the right thing. Watch this space people; this is a young performer going places. Big places!
Sebe Leotlela as nightclub singer Candy is incredible and deserves more prominence, as does Bongi Mthombeni as Monty, who could also be put to much better use here.
Take the show for what it is. It’s an enjoyable musical; a bit of a serious theme here and there, but lightened up with many well-known sing-a-long tunes, well-executed dance numbers, a bunch of great looking people in colourful clothes, on a drop-dead incredible moving set! It’s not rocket science, don’t try and read too much into it. Just go and have fun … we all need to have a lot more fun and we’re damn lucky that we have a bunch of people out there who are working their butts off to give it to us!
Saturday Night Fever is on at the Opera Theatre at the South African State Theatre in Pretoria until October 9.
If you haven’t already booked at Computicket, go and do that right now! Why are you still reading this? Go … book … NOW!!!