Wits student play scoops awards at Grahamstown National Arts Festival. 

THE DEVIL at a Dead End, a theatre production by the students of the theatre and performance department at Wits, won an award at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival earlier this month.

The play, directed by third-year theatre and performance student, Kashifa Sithole, won Student Award for Best Director and the Standard Bank Ovation Encore Award.

Sithole told Wits Vuvuzela that the play was adapted from Miriam Tlali’s short story that shares the same title. It tells the story of a woman from Lesotho en route to Johannesburg by train to see her husband. Her journey is disrupted by a man who violates her sexually. The play’s focus is more on how the woman deals with the rape rather than the act of rape.

She added that the play was originally an exam piece but as a team, they felt that the message was strong and needed to be extend beyond the classroom.

“A lot of what we added was to flesh out the story and characters to add more context. We wanted to ensure that the characters were actual people you could relate to. It was important for us to have the lead character relatable to other females,” Sithole said.

The director also told Wits Vuvuzela that they thought it important to take the play further as it educates on how to treat the victims of sexual violence, and to help eliminate the idea of victim blaming.

Thandolwethu Mulambo, writer of the play and third-year theatre and performance student, said that in order to ensure that the message extended beyond the show, by interweaving certain words or terms that are memorable for each character.

“The mother’s character for example, when reciting a poem repeatedly says “metsi”. Her theme is sea water which black people have associated with cleansing. You always find that after the play as the audience walks out they will chant “metsi”, taking the conversation outside the play.”

Third-year theatre and performance student, Nokuthula Mabuza, who plays the mother of the lead said that while it was challenging playing an elderly character, she felt that the story was important and had to give the character justice.

“As an actor, my job is to make the audience feel something. Hearing people say, “metsi” makes me feel that I did something that left an impact,” she said.

The three students said that winning the award validated the belief that they had in their work as they had people that didn’t believe in them.

“The award validated the strength of the production, the message, and that as artists we can stand on our own two feet,” Mabuza said.

The Devil at the Dead End is showing at The Nunnery until July 28. Tickets are available at Webtickets.

FEATURE IMAGE: The lead character MaLibuseng played by Khumo Baduza in a scene from the play. Photo: Onke Ngcuka.