At long last, the Soweto Theatre is ready for action. Its first stage production will be none other than The Suitcase, an emotive and poignant piece of theatre based on the short story by academic, writer and literary critic Es’kia Mphahlele, which will take to the brand-new stage on 25 May.
Construction commenced on the theatre in June 2009. The theatre complex, which was completed in April, is situated in the Jabulani CBD and includes other amenities, such as the Jabulani Amphitheatre, parkland and public art.
“The Soweto Theatre is a stunning piece of architecture, inspired by the idea of a ‘black box theatre’, a flexible multi-functional space. In the end, the theatre was made up of three boxes. It’s magnificent,”
says Councillor Chris Vondo, MMC for Community Development.
This design will ensure the theatre stays true to its multi-faceted mandate. As a receiving house, the Soweto Theatre will play host to its own productions, as well as staging productions from the surrounding community. As a producing house, the theatre’s main objective is to produce performing arts in a wide variety of genres that will stimulate discussion on a variety of challenging issues, thereby actively contributing to the vision of transforming the City of Johannesburg into a ‘world class African city’.
“This theatre won’t only provide the residents of Soweto with an innovative and culturally relevant theatre programme, incorporating traditional African art forms, as well as European productions, but will also be a platform for the community, to ensure the participation of previously disadvantaged companies and individuals in the operations of the organisation,” says Vondo.
The theatre has already contributed R20-million to the local economy through creating 460 jobs as part of the construction of the theatre. As the theatre develops, work opportunities will be created for actors, directors, producers, dancers and musicians.
“It is an honour to stage the Soweto Theatre’s first production,” says James Ngcobo, who adapted and directsThe Suitcase, a story of love and trial. Written in 1954, The Suitcase is set in the 1950s and based on an actual event. It centres on a young rural couple, Timi Ngobese, played by Siyabonga Twala, and Namhla Ngobese, played by Xolile Tshabalala. Filled with hope, the husband has dreams of returning to the village with his fortune. But this hope fades and the husband, desperate to provide for his pregnant wife, steals a suitcase left in a bus, an act that dramatically changes his life.
“To be able to yet again pick up this great piece of story-telling by our giant Es’kia Mphahlele leaves one with a lot of humility, to honour his work and the biographies that he put in this story. There is poignancy about how he weaved this story that it is still in conversation with contemporary issues,” says Ngcobo.
The programme for opening on 25 May is as follows:
- Special tribute by Mzwakhe Mbuli.
- Isiqalo – The Beginning, by the Vuyani Dance Theatre (choreographed by Gregory Maqoma).
- Soweto Jazz Orchestra, directed by Khaya Mahlangu.
- The Suitcase, directed by James Ngcobo.
- Concord Nkabinde featuring Gloria Bosman.
Tickets range from R30 to R60 and are available at Computicket.
The Soweto Theatre is on Bolani Road in Jabulani, Soweto.