Master story teller Paul Grootboom has a new play, A Better Life headed to the Market Theatre

A Better Life –Nov27-19 features a star studded cast who are household names in some of the famous telenovelas,: Lele Ledwaba, Didintle Khunou,S aint Seseli and Thabo Malema.

By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor

The problem with nostalgia is that If one is not mindful, you end up being caught up in a past that may or may not have been better than the present and even the future. Yes, there is a certain truth in the idea that there are some parts of our past that could still be with us, especially If it is a past of which we have fond memories of. Those pasts there is a good reason why we humans sometimes want to take with to the future. However there is a certain danger about holding boldly and blindly into the past at all times.

One person who understands why the past sometimes can be a detriment to a people, especially as they try to calibrate a new path that is probably even more brighter and more fulfilling spiritually than our past glory is none other than Market Theatre Artistic Director James Ngcobo. Ever since Ngcobo took over as Artistic Director of the Market Theatre, he has on several occasions, spoken without fail, about the danger of nostalgia. This is as he calibrated a new present and future artistic vision of the country’s most famous and most decorated theatres, whose past is covered in glory, specific ally its role during the struggle. But then, we are in a changed environment, that also calls for those privileged to direct an artistic vision of a major theatre’s such as the Market Theatre to be aware of a changed socio-political environment, and therefore, align programming to meet the challenges of the day as witnessed by contemporary society, the context in which artistic production is currently taking place.

A Better Life photographer Thandile Zwelibanzi.

Having said that, please indulge me as I digress and indulge in a nostalgic journey of my own, a nostalgia that does not leave me alone no matter how many years have since passed.

I remember the day very well. It was on a Sunday afternoon, and I was standing in front of the entrance of the Market Theatre, chatting to a few people, when suddenly there were unfamiliar faces that constantly arrived. Most looked lost, but a few went straight to the box office inside the Market Theatre complex to buy tickets.  However most of the people that arrived looked really lost. A few asked me and my mates. “Excuse me, where is the Market Theatre?”. I  turned around towards the entrance of the theatre, deliberately looking up to the sign that was so visible that the question was seemingly mute. Embarrassed, the couple hurried into the theatre, joining a queue that was already forming at the box office to buy tickets too.

A Better Life Lele Ledwaba

This was in the early 2000s, when one prolific theatre writer and director called Mpumelelo Paul Grootboom penned a hugely successful play called Cards. The show was so successful at both the State Theatre and the Market Theatre to the extent that it attracted a non traditional theatre audience, such as our friends who got lost while they were right in front of the entrance of the Market Theatre. This show had several repeat seasons at theatre venues ever since.

Grootboom however also followed that feat up by also writing other successful stage productions, notably Relativity: Township Stories, among others,which connected with audiences easily, even the ones who had not put a foot in theatre in their entire life before.

But then something happened to this playwright: he suddenly disappeared, having been lured by the TV sector, as a writer, where remuneration is obviously more. TV’s gain became theatre’s loss as far as the talent of Grootboom is concerned, both as a writer and director.

However those who like me, like his style of theatre, will be happy to know that Grootboom is back on theatre stages, this time having penned another play that promises to attract many to theatre again.

Grootboom has written new play titled A Better Life, which is headed for the Market Theatre, starting its season this month, November 26 and running till December 19, 2021.

A Better Life was commissioned and produced by The Market Theatre as part of the 45thyear programming celebration.

Grootboom’s A Better Life will make its premiere at the Market Theatre from 27 November – 19 December 2021, featuring a star studded cast who are household names in some of the famous telenovelas, Lele Ledwaba,Didintle Khunou,Saint Seseli and Thabo Malema.

“This time we have them playing to a live audience grappling with notions of what is a better life? December marks and draws a vivid line between the haves and the have nots, it is the gun fire marking the beginning of a race for a better life!

Wish your life was different and better? What if someone holds the key to the life of your dreams? How do you get the person to unlock it? Do you want a better life?,” says the market Theatre’s media release accompanying the announcement of the production.

What the play is all about

The play is about a failed young novelist turned driver, Tiro Kekana, who discovers that his company has been used by his middle-aged boss, a tenderpreneur, Vuyo Maduna, in securing and enriching himself and his boozy wife, a civil servant, Connie Maduna, with lucrative but fraudulent government contracts.  (What did I say about Grootboom’s plays connecting easily with audiences?)

Tiro’s feisty and ambitious live-in partner, a betting clerk, Naledi Dikobe, convinces Tiro that their financial troubles can be ameliorated by confronting the Madunas and demanding his share of the profits. The stage is set for a tense showdown when the poorer young couple meets the wealthier older couple and haggle over the corrupt spoils and attempt to outplay each other.

This is ascenario that is obviously playing on something that many South Africans are familiar with, especially when it comes to frauidulent tender schemes. In the past years South Africa has been grappling with the rise of crooked tenderpreneurs who have left a trail of economic destruction and long list of people amassing huge amounts of wealth through corrupt deals.

Tiro and Naledi engage in a dangerous emotional mind games of challenging the moral compass of the Madunas in their bid to try and have a piece of the pie as they want to emancipate themselves from the poverty stricken life they lead.

A Better Life is directed by the 2019 Standard Bank Gold Ovation winner Joseph Komani. His multi award winning production XOVA played to sold out houses at the Market Theatre in 2020. He makes his return with this brand new play that he hopes will challenge audiences values and how far will they go when presented with an opportunity amass some wealth. Will you take a chance to better your life and compromise your integrity? The play opposes the idea of a perfect world and societal expectations as it attacks the false optimism of money acquired wrongfully.

Don’t miss this thrilling drama written by one of South Africa’s prolific playwrights Grootboom, directed by rising star  Komani and starring the best of the best in acting Didintle Khunou, Lele Ledwaba, Saint Seseli and Thabo Malema from 26 November – 12 December



Writer & Mentor Director                                  Paul Grootboom

Mentee Director                                               Joseph Komani

Lighting Designer                                              Alexander Farmer

Costume & Set Designer                                    Karabo Legoabe – Mtshali

Stage Manager                                                 Happy Simelane


Didintle Khunou

Lele Ledwaba

Saint Seseli

Thabo Malema

Age Recommendation   13

Season:                                    Saturday 27November – Sunday 19 December 2021

Venue:                          Mannie Manim Theatre

Performance times:      Tuesday – Saturday @19h00 and Sunday @15h15

Ticket prices:     Tuesday – Thursday R90.00 Friday – Saturday R150.00 and Sunday R130.00

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