Going solo in the name of art

The second annual So Solo festival  is coming to the Wits theater this spring and it promises a line-up of thought provoking theater .


The So Solo festival of one person plays is coming to the Wits Theater for a month from September 11. A unique concept in theater, the festival will feature a solo actor performing a story in each show, accompanied only by lights, props and music.

ONE ACT AT A TIME: The festival of one person plays is returning for its second run at the Wits Theater. Photo: Provided

ONE ACT AT A TIME: The festival of one person plays is returning for its second run at the Wits Theater. Photo: Provided


“So Solo is an edgy festival and this years’ productions are works that push the boundaries of the art form further,” said festival director Gitanjali Pather.


16 plays written by diverse writers, directors and actors will be showcased over the month-long festival. Some of the artists featured are current Wits students including Kelly Eksteen, star of Kullid.  Eksteen says the experience of working physically alone has taught her the value of having other actors on stage supporting the storytelling process.


“I think that no matter whether you’re in an ensemble of 20 cast members or if you’re by yourself, it’s never about you,” she said.


Pather says she chose to target young talents who are creating work despite the obstacles they face.

Many graduates of the Wits School of Arts (WSOA) are producing their own work and this will be performed for audiences at the So Solo festival.  The likes of MoMo Matsunyane, the writer and director of this years commissioned piece, ‘Penny’ and Tony Miyambo who performs the award winning Kafka’s Ape will also make an appearance during the festival.


“I took two plays down to the national arts festival this year; Kafkas Ape and The Cenotaph of Dan Wa Moriri which was the commissioned play for the first ever So Solo festival last year. I was given the opportunity to tell stories that are close to my heart and received an amazing response for both pieces,” said Miyambo.


WITS SCHOOL OF ART GRADUATE: Tony Miyambo, one of this years featured alumni at the So Solo Festival. Photo: Provided

WITS SCHOOL OF ART GRADUATE: Tony Miyambo, one of this years featured WSOA alumni at the So Solo Festival. Photo: Provided


Having a space to perform is important for young people in the arts, according to  Pather. She said students get to “shape, and reshape their stories, hone their skills and understand that magical thing that happens between performer and the audience.”


Aside from the student participants, the festival also hosts well-known theater personalities like Carina Nel who will perform the critically acclaimed ‘Suster’ – a story about a woman who is diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder following her parents’ death.


Makhaola Siyanda Ndebele, the writer and performer of ‘Cantos of a life in exile’  deploys the South African performance genres of iiNgoma (healing rituals), iintsomi (storytelling) and IziBongo (praise poetry) in this tale about finding home. This autobiographical performance journey explores the complexities of identity faced  by a South African citizen exiled during apartheid.


Craig Morris’s hilarious delivery in the award winning  ‘Johnny Boskak is feeling funny’ is sure to leave the audience in stiches.  This spin-off to Greig Coetzee’s White men with weapons, is based on Johnny Boskak’s journey to find his place in the new South Africa. It’s a story about defying the odds at any means necessary with a comedic twist.


WELL KNOWN FACES: Some well known artists featured in last years festival. This year will also include a mix of familiar and new faces. Photo: Provided

THE KNOWN AND UNKNOWN: This year will  include a mix of familiar and new faces. Photo: Provided


“I created the So Solo season to celebrate the solo artist”


The works of captivating works of multi talented writers and actors like Philip M. Dikotla in ‘Jokes 4 sale’ , Billy Langa in ‘Ngwed1’ , Wiseman Mncube in ‘Giving birth to my father’ and Tefo Paya in ‘Morwa: the rising sun’,will ensure that any genre you crave will be satisfied.


Pather says, “more and more artists are using the solo performer vehicle to tell stories AND practice their craft in a way that makes it economically viable.” Performers agree saying that there’s no better way to advance ones career but through doing the work they love.


Book online at www.webtickets.co.za or purchase your tickets from box office. The ticket prices range from R70 to R85

Complexions of a young black girl

Come Duze: Mbali Malinga portrays the sexual violence inflicted on a young girl by a township thug Photo: Provided

“Come Duze”: Mbali Malinga portrays the sexual violence inflicted on a young girl by a township thug in the play Complexion showing at the Wits Nunnery till this Friday.                                                                                                                              Photo: Provided

Nothing in Mbali Malinga’s one woman show was over-the-top, despite obvious parallels that could be drawn between this Bildungsroman gone wrong and the infamous television show Yizo Yizo.

The stage of the Wits Nunnery where Complexion played this Monday was completely bare, except for assorted pairs of shoes –stiletto heels, pumps and sneakers – hanging from the low ceiling.

No music. No props. Basic lighting.

But unlike Yizo Yizo, this production swaps gratuity for subtlety to achieve a similarly chilling effect: of the starkness and troubles of growing up poor in South Africa’s townships.

One woman, 15 characters

At the end of play, which lasted a swift half hour, you understood why nothing but Malinga and the raucous rabble of characters she brought with her could fit on to the stage, and only just.

“I played 15 characters. A lot of my personal experiences went into it, as well as a lot of research. I needed to understand how these characters are,” Malinga explained after the show, which she developed and wrote herself, over a seven month period. Complexion evolved from a six minute performance Malinga prepared for her 4th year exams.

[pullquote align=”right”]“This is the story of a girl who is made by the home she comes from.”[/pullquote]

Subtitled “How do black girls paint the sky red?”, the play tells the simple story of a black girl growing up in the township. Malinga plays observer and subject, the latter germinating from infancy to puberty and encountering the almost typical hardships and joys of a black girl in the township.

Almost typical, but not quite. Rather than dwell on those familiar stereotypes of township life, which she portrays with bewitching verisimilitude  to the small crowds’ pleasure, Malinga shifts quickly between successive growth phases of womanhood, and consequently from one stereotype to the next, with a succinctness and intensity that denies her audience the luxury of forming simple, emotional reactions to what they are seeing..

More than the wrongs of eKasi

The result is a sharp, darkly collage of provoking vignettes that achieve what Malinga confessed she could not in the six-minute version of the play.

“At first, I was just trying to get that eKasi life out … it was an angry piece that just said this is wrong, this is wrong!”

But after grappling with the physical aspects of the play with movement guru Craig Morris, and taking advice from the unexpectedly “very honest, tough crowd” at the Hillbrow Children’s Theatre, Malinga was able to carve out a simple, powerful story she is proud of.

“This is the story of a girl who is made by the home she comes from.”