Afrikaans play Tien Duisend Ton to grace Market Theatre stages in gesture affirming indigenous languages

By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor

Some years ago The Market Theatre in Newtown was hailed when it put on stage a production called Ga-Mchangani written and directed by one of its alumni, one Obed Baloyi. Baloyi is a graduate of the Market Theatre Laboratory, a school that has produced many a writer, actor and theatre director over the years.

Some of its products include Baloyi himself, now a seasoned actor plying his trade on TV and the late acting legend Mncedisi Tshabangu, among other luminaries populating the stage, film and TV scenes these days.  But the reason why at that time the theatre was especially hailed was because it had managed to do what many theatres sometimes fear to do, and that is to experiment and put up shows that are necessary for the sake of cultural representation in a diverse country such as South Africa, but which may not be commercial viable, such as staging a play in a minority language.  

And from a commercial point of view, that is understandable, even though it is at the expense of giving minority languages a chance on stage and give the audience an opportunity to watch productions in as many South African official languages as possible.

Baloyi’s Ga-Mchangani however did so well to the extent that till today, some people refer to Baloyi as Ga-Mchangani, particularly those who were lucky enough to watch Ga-Mchangani, in which Baloyi himself displayed spectacular acting skills, turning the character of Ga-Mchangani into a believable character many could identify with in their daily experiences of a life in South African townships and villages.  But for some reason that taking of a risk in staging shows in minority languages stopped at that theatre subsequently.

And of course I am quite aware of the small issue of stereotyping people from minority cultural groups, such as VaTsonga on mainstream media, such as TV. If anything that is the sickness of contemporary society today, and not the fault of the artist who depicts such prejudice through their work. The artists are giving the society a mirror to look at itself, warts and all.

“In 1998, actor and playwright Obed Baloyi premiered his debut play Ga-Mchangani at the Market Theatre Laboratory. Using a tragically humorous Jim-comes-to-Jozi plot, the play highlights the stereotypes that Vatsonga people are dealt, with the objective of exposing the tribalism at play in South Africa,” wrote journalist Zaza Hlalethwa  in the Mail &Guardian in 2019, about this sickness in society.

But again one of the instruments that powerful institutions such as theatres have is to use their spaces to centre minority languages in society being being brave enough to deliberately programme some plays whose dialogues are mainly in minority languages.  The Market Theatre did that in 2013/2014, and to my recollection, the audience did not walk out. If anything they were curious and listened attentively to what was going on, on stage. Even enjoyed some plays in these indigenous minority languages.

Fortunately the theatre seems to be going back to the idea of trying minority languages on its stages alongside staging shows in mainstream languages such as English and isiZulu.

In 2013/2014 there was in fact a plethora of productions on the stages of the Market Theatre: Sesotho, Sepedi, Setswana and Afrikaans, and they were all generally received well by the audience. In many ways that proved that the audience will appreciate good theatre irrespective of the limitation in accessing a particular language. A good play on stage is more than a language of its dialogue. It is also how that dialogue is delivered that often connects with an audience, even If they do not understand a single word.

In the context of minority languages being given space on mainstream theatre stages, an Afrikaans production called Tien Duisend Ton is set to premiere at the Market Theatre for a limited season next year, effectively opening its new theatre programme for 2023.

A flagship production at the 2019 SU Woordfees, the multi-award winning production of TIEN DUISEND TON will grace the stages of  the Market Theatre from 19 January – 5 February 2023. 

“:The Market Theatre is constantly looking for ways to push the envelope, and challenges itself to be brave as a production house by searching for new and exciting content to present a stimulating programme. The Theatre made a bold commitment three years ago when it pledged to become the home of Afrikaans theatre in Johannesburg.

The world is getting hotter, there’s unrest overseas—the seas themselves aren’t very calm—and one couple is thinking about having a child. Written by the incredible Duncan MacMillan (People Places & Things, Every Brilliant Thing), TIEN DUISEND TON is a smart, funny and moving drama that follows a couple through the surprising lifecycle of their relationship, as they grapple with questions of family and change, hope, betrayal, happenstance, and the terrible pain that you can only cause the people you love,” says the theatre in a statement.

Translated into Afrikaans and directed by Nico Scheepers, TIEN DUISEND TON brings together two of South Africa’s foremost talents in Albert Pretorius and Cintaine Schutte, who star as a couple seriously considering  procreation in the face of imminent extinction.

Winner Best Actress and Best Debut Production at the SU Woordfees 2019, and nominated for 5 kykNET Fiësta Awards, TIEN DUISEND TON is an incredibly moving, funny and fast-paced production coming to the Market Theatre.

Presented by the Market Theatre and SU Woordfees, in association with Carel Nel, TIEN DUISEND TON runs at the Market Theatre from 20 January to 5 February 2023.

Catch TIED DUISEND TON a dazzling and beautifully crafted love story that not only intensely personal but also poignantly universal – it never misses a beat!

Age recommendation 16 years


Writer                                                                                 Duncan Macmillian

Translated and Directed by                                             Nico Scheepers

Producer                                                                   Carel Nel

Set, Costume and Lighting  Designer                Nico Scheepers

Stage Manager                                                       Ali Madiga

Stage Manage        r Intern                                            Irvin Taylor                                                                            


Albert Pretorius as Man

Cintaine Schutte as Vrou

Season:                                             Thursday 19 January – Sunday 5 February 2023  

Venue:                                              The Mannie Manim    

Performance times:                       Tuesday – Saturday @19h00 and Sunday @15h00

Ticket prices:                                  Tuesday – Thursday R90

Friday – Saturday R150

Sunday – R130

To make block bookings and discounts please contact Anthony Ezeoke 011 832 1641ext 203/ 083 246 4950 or Bandile Luvalo 078 4344 860 .

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