Theatre-goers are in for a big treat this year with all the City of Johannesburg’s three theatres – Joburg, Soweto and Roodepoort – offering entertainment from the top drawer for the next 12 months.
This year’s thrilling programme kicks off with the musical West Side Story on the Mandela Stage at the Joburg Theatre in Braamfontein on January 24.
The Eric Abraham and Fugard Theatre production is probably one of the best musicals ever written in recent years in which a modern-day Romeo and Juliet are caught up in a turf war between rival New York street gangs.
The musical runs until March 5.
February sees the staging of Six Inches at the Joburg Theatre’s The Fringe – from Valentine’s Day (February 14) to February 18. Loaded with innuendo, Six Inches touches on all things sexual. It is an exploratory comedy about three girls and their different sexual identities.
The Festival of Fame, presented by the National School of Arts, runs from March 7 to March 12 on the Mandela Stage.
“We pride ourselves in sourcing and producing world-class shows geared for all ages,” says Joburg Theatre Executive Producer Claire Pacariz.
“We’re excited to be hosting such an electrifying calendar and look forward to being the venue of choice for citizens seeking the very best in entertainment.”
Meanwhile, across town in Jabulani, Soweto, Woza Albert!, the world-acclaimed anti-apartheid satirical play, makes a welcome return when it hits the Red Theatre stage at the Soweto Theatre after a successful run at the Joburg Theatre in February last year.
The play by Mbongeni Ngema, Percy Mtwa and Barney Simon runs from February 8 to February 22. Woza Albert!, which forms part of the Gauteng Department of Education’s school set work, is set in the 1980s at the height of apartheid repression.
The play is still as relevant today as it was when it was first staged more than 30 years ago, when black South Africans were treated like second-class citizens and their movements restricted by pass laws.
Woza Albert! is political satire at its best. The play imagines the Second Coming of Morena (Jesus Christ) in apartheid South Africa. Award-winning actors Bheki Mkhwane and Hamilton Dhlamini, who each play a number of roles – from a vendor, barber and domestic worker to manual labourer and soldier – make it easier for audiences to relate to the new South Africa, where people, despite enjoying political freedom, still yearn for a better life.
Mkhwane and Dhlamini show off their skills in acting, miming, singing and dancing. They also create images using a few words and actions. Using the metaphor of Morena, the production raises questions about how Christ would have reacted if he came back to witness how the country’s majority population was being treated in apartheid South Africa.
Would he have liked what was going on? If not, what would he have done to stop the atrocities, what the United Nations declared was a crime against humanity?
The actors perform with a rich humour despite the hardships the characters go through. Mkhwane is best known for his TV role as Samson in Mzansi Magic soapie Isibaya.