By Edward Tsumele
Many a theatre lover should be smiling because of the fact that theatres seem to have made a decision to reopen after the disruption to programming caused by the global coronavirus pandemic. This means that theatres are now taking bookings from audiences hungry for live theatre.
Firs to open under strict Covid-19 protocols was the Joburg Theatre in Braamfontein, , which opened its doors once the Level 2 risk alert was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in September. Now that the country is in level 1, more theatres, which are allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity are reopening.
In fact the Market Theatre has announced a full season of indigenous language theatre which starts this December, running over to early next year, and this is perhaps a demonstration of the confidence in theatre audiences flocking back to theatre since the rate of infection has gone down, and most industries are operating at full capacity.
There has been uneasiness about the question of whether audiences will come back to theatre immediately once they reopen, especially after the outbreak of the global pandemic. Until now, most theatres, including the Market Theatre, the State Theatre and major arts festivals preferred to go the virtual world route.
Annual events, such as Jomba! Festival at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the National Arts Festival in Makhanda, The South African Book Fair, and Poetry Africa Festival also at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, have resorted to streamlining their shows on the virtual world due to the pandemic. Art galleries are starting to have physical openings but under strict health protocols applicable to Covid 19, including visitors sanitising at the entrance to the gallery, as well as in some cases, visitors only being allowed into galleries by appointment only.
The latest theatre to announce their reopening is the iconic Market Theatre in Newtown.
The Market Theatre re-opens with the multi award winning Xhosa production Xova from 4 – 13 December 2020. Written and directed Joseph Komani the production is performed in isiXhosa mixed with English. The story is told in mixture of movement and song with a blend of a visual 3D feel enhanced by elements of symbolism and minimalism.
Since 2015 the Market Theatre has staged productions in Afrikaans, Sesotho and Setswana who all have proven to speak to the yearning of audiences to watch productions in their mother tongues. The perseverance and determination of the Market Theatre is the reason that led to the Market Theatre decision to follow on this success with a season of indigenous languages productions,” the theatre said in a statement yesterday.
“It’s a difficult terrain in terms of building new audiences but the Market Theatre Foundation remains committed in its passion to give access to new voices and historically marginalised South African languages”, says Zama Buthelezi, the Brand and communications manager of the Market Theatre Foundation.
Afrikaans production Kamphoer (19 January – 14 February 2021) is based on a true story. South African theatre legend Sandra Prinsloo appears in the challenging role of Susan Nell who faced an unspeakable ordeal during the Anglo-Boer War (1899 – 1902) in the Winburg concentration camp , directed by award winning director Lara Foot. Following her father’s death during the war, Susan and her mother end up in a concentration camp where she is brutally raped and left for dead by two British officers and a joiner.
Father Come Home (staged from 5 – 28 February 2021) is adapted from prolific South African author, the late E’skia Mphahlele’snovel and translated into IsiPedi by award winning actress and published writer, Rami Chuene. The play will be directed by the 2008 Zwakala Festival winner, Clive Mathibe who is the creative director for the Imbokodo Awards. The production follows the life of a young Pedi boy, Maredi, who grows up in a remote village of Sedibeng in the Northern Transvaal without a father.
“With the season of Indigenous languages Plays we hope to attract audiences at the Market Theatre who are familiar with the languages as well as audiences who have a curiosity for language, heritage and history. Audiences will find both works truly inspiring”, says Buthelezi.