A production by Wits drama students, The Village, will be on at the 969 Festival next week.  The 969 Festival runs from 13-24 July at the Wits Theatre, giving Johannesburg audiences the opportunity to see shows straight from the stages of the National Arts Festival.

The cast is made up of five young women and is directed by honours student Sarah Nansubuga. The Village explores themes of hope, love, family and desire with a South African twist. The play is based on Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel, The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World, and centres on the village itself, with a special emphasis on the reactions of the villagers to a dead man who washes up on their shores.

Starting out as an exam piece, the play was then performed during O-Week at Wits. Based on its success, it was selected to be showcased at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, which is the “biggest annual celebration of the arts on the African continent”. Nansubuga described the opportunity as “fun” because they were able to experience new audiences, compared to the familiar faces they normally perform for.

Nansubuga explained that there were some challenges, such as  breaking new barriers and having small audiences, although those who attended it, enjoyed it.

Incorporating the element of “play” was crucial for Nansubuga. This allowed the cast to “feed off of each other” as the play progressed. Growth was also important, ensuring that the play continuously evolved to give audiences a “good show”. They are looking forward to their involvement in the 969 Festival (which is 969km from Grahamstown, and how the festival got its name), hoping to entice more people to watch the show.

Speaking about what’s next, Nansubuga coyly said: “We’ll see.” She added that the theatre industry for students and graduates is tough, stressing the importance of establishing a name for yourself while studying. However, she also noted that it’s important not to stretch yourself too thin or get taken advantage of, by knowing when to say “no”.

The Village will be on at the Nunnery for five shows, from July 20th-July 23rd.