Woza Albert.At the Market Theatre
Woza Albert! is one of the plays for which South African theatre is best known internationally. Its physical style of storytelling was to inspire and influence theatre companies around the world -- and it is one of the best examples that define South African theatre in all its vibrancy, innovation and humanity.
This celebrated and much-loved South African classic asks what would happen if Jesus Christ (Morena) came back to South Africa during apartheid. This lively satire of the absurdities of apartheid provides a showcase for the talents of two dextrous actors, who play a range of ordinary characters on the street.
The first part of the play sets the scene, attacking the pass laws that prevented black South Africans from moving and working freely. Similarly, it sketches in a few short minutes the semi-slavery that was imposed on manual workers by bosses who could fire them if they got too independent. However, there is always a rich vein of humour even in the worst adversity. The use of clown's noses to distinguish the elite Afrikaners -- including the Prime Minister -- from the apparently subservient blacks was one of the features to make this play famous. The short, impressionistic sketches begin to move from background scenes of generally downtrodden life to interviews with individuals about the impending visit of Morena -- who inaugurates his Second Coming by flying to South Africa courtesy of SAA.
The second half of the play becomes considerably darker and more resonant. Now Jesus is in the country and his life is replayed in the apartheid context. He is first welcomed then imprisoned. When he is taken to Robben Island, his escape is easy as he walks back across the bay to Cape Town. This retelling of a familiar story in a new context becomes devastating by the end, shedding light on both the Bible and apartheid South Africa.
The new season of Woza Albert! features the talented performers Mncedisi Shabangu and Hamilton Dlamini. The 2012 production will be directed by emerging talent, Prince Lamla, whose production, Coal Yard, won the Zwakala Festival and had a highly successful ran at the Market Theatre. The Market has had great success recently with the restaging of classics from the past -- and Woza Albert! comes as the latest installment. As with the recently highly successful Siswe Bansi is Dead, this play has been interpreted by a new generation of theatre practitioners for a new and growing audience.
Television production by Competent Artistes, television director and editor Paul Tilsley. www.competentartistes.tv