By CityLIfe Arts Writer
The iconic, multi-award-winning South African play Saturday Night At The Palace will once again grace the Gauteng stage, 41 years after its explosive debut during apartheid in 1982.
Opening at the Joburg Theatre on 28 July until 28 August, Saturday Night At The Palace is bound to have just as poignant an impact as it did when it rose to acclaim in the 1980s, and was described as “shattering” and “political theatre at its best”.
Written by the award-winning playwright and actor Paul Slabolepszy in 1981, the play launched Slabolepszy’s theatrical career and quickly earned him a reputation as one of the most skilled theatrical writers and performers in the country.
Saturday Night at the Palace tackles the ugly impact of institutionalized racism during the height of apartheid, weaving the delicate and harsh realities of its three main characters together and drawing audiences deeply into a voyeuristic experience of the characters’ lives, and the fascinating and gritty themes they depict.
Its impact saw the play win phenomenal local and international prestige with sold-out shows across the country in 1983, after which it travelled to Ireland and the
Gotenburg Festival in Sweden before a six-week season at London’s Old Vic Theatre.
Saturday Night at the Palace won multiple DALRO, Vita, and Fleur du Cap Awards between 1982 and 1984, and now, Gauteng audiences will get to experience this exceptional work almost 41 years later.
Inspired by a headline in The Star newspaper in 1981 that read “Bizarre Attack on Roadhouse”, the play unravels the stories of two working-class white men (Vince and Forsie) who arrive at an isolated roadhouse (The Palace) at closing time. The black waiter (September) who works there is about to go on leave to visit his family whom he has not seen in over two years as they live in an apartheid-enforced homeland.
The play seduces its audience with delightful comic banter before swiftly immersing them in the shocking reality of the unfolding events. An unhinged Vince has just been dropped by his soccer team and his housemate Forsie has been given the daunting task of informing him that he has also been evicted from his commune. A volatile situation unfolds at the Roadhouse where the combination of deep insecurity and entrenched racism seesSeptember bear the tragic brunt of Vince’s unravelling life.
Joburg Theatre Artistic Director James Ngcobo says: “While apartheid no longer exists as a political system, the existence of entrenched racism – not only in our society but globally – still inflicts ugly wounds that need to be healed and deep scars that need to be exposed. Saturday Night at The Palace is not only a powerful human story, but it is also one that still sadly remains relevant today. Much has changed but unfortunately, much has stayed the same. I hope that by bringing this iconic play back to the stage, we inspire the need for insight, change, and meaningful conversation that moves us forward. When theatre can manifest this type of engagement, we see and experience the true glory of our art and it is also is a celebration of Paul Slab’s voice. A voice that has inspired and mentored the next generation of storytellers, throughout the years”
Originally starring Fats Dibeko, Bill Flynn, and Paul Slabolepszy and brought to acclaim under the direction of Bobby Heaney in the 1980s, this 2023 staging has been expertly directed for its 2023 audiences by acclaimed director Albert Maritz and stars Charlie Bouguenon (Vince); Hamilton Dhlamini (September) and Francois Jacobs (Forsie).
DHLAMINI was born and raised in Sebokeng where he acted in community theatre shows Dlala Papa Style and Hard Times before landing the lead role of Ntokozo in the TV series Zikhethele 2. His love for theatre saw him join John Moalusi Ledwaba’s Street Sisters (which toured Europe extensively in 1989) as well as the narrator in Sikulu (which also toured Europe extensively). Other theatre productions include Ten Bush (Mncedisi Shabangu), Nongogo (James Ngcobo), Kalushi (Aubrey Sekhabi), Woyzeck on the Highveld (William Kentridge), Egoli (Phala Phala), Woza Albert (Hamilton Dhlamini), and The Head and the Load (William Kentridge).
BOUGUENON is known for his versatility as an actor, and his ability to inhabit a wide range of characters with depth and nuance. He has been praised for his work in both dramatic and comedic roles and remarks that it is “an absolute joy to be one of the cast to bring the classic Saturday Night At The Palace back to the stage after so many years.” He has acted in three of Janice Honeyman’s pantomimes as well as The King & I, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and last year performed a stirring monologue from Paul Slabolepszy’s The Return of Elvis Du Pisanie at the Jo’burg Theatre’s 60th Jubilee. Other notable theatre successes include roles in The Rocky Horror Show [Brownyn Evans]; Passover [James Ngcobo]
Somewhere on the Border [Andre Odendaal]; Jersey Boys [ Des McNuff] and A Raisin in the Sun[ James Ngcobo].
JACOBS is a renowned actor, singer ang songwriter and is best known for his starring role as Klein Piet de Witt in the kykNET period drama series Donkerland and the recurring role as Wynand in the kykNET soap opera Binneland. In 2015, he was one of the 12 finalists on Top reality TV show Actor SA on DSTV.
SLABOLEPSZY graduated with a B.A. (Drama) degree from the University of Cape Town before coming a founding member of SA’s first non-racial theatre company, The Space in Cape Town (along with Athol Fugard, John Kani, Yvonne Bryceland, Jaqui Singer and Bill Flynn) in 1972. He was a founder member of the world-renowned Market Theatre Company in 1976 in Johannesburg (alongside Mannie Manim & Barney Simon).
In 1983, Paul received the Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year Award and as an actor, has appeared in well over 100 stage plays and television productions as well as 25 feature films. He became the first actor in SA to win every Best Actor Award nationwide in a single year (Vita, Fleur du Cap, and DALRO, 1993) playing Eddie in his own play The Return of Elvis du Pisanie. With over thirty-five plays to his credit, Paul is arguably (after Athol Fugard) South Africa’s foremost playwright, his work having been performed in the UK, the USA, Germany, France, Australia, Sweden, Denmark, and the Middle East and 2023, was the recipient of the 2023 Naledi Lifetime Achiever Award in recognition of his ground-breaking work and talent.
Award-winning director ALBERT MARITZ, whose reputation for breathing new life into iconic South African plays, takes the helm on Saturday Night at the Palace. Maritz has won multiple top theatre awards for both directing and acting during his expansive career and is renowned for his work with classical theatre productions, musicals, television, and film.