Former Witsies launch theatre company 

After creating an award nominated play, six former Witsies, interwoven by the threads of their theatrical dreams, unite to start their own theatre company.  

The curtains may have closed on the final run of the show Seeing Other People at the Theatre on the Square, Sandton, on Saturday, 22 July, but for the creators, it marks just the opening act of an exciting new journey.  

After creating a three-time Naledi Theatre award-nominated play former Witsies Hira Lodhi, Martin Grendele, Naledi Modipa, Sasha Karlin, Hlumie Moloi and James Netherlands have started a theatre company named “Top Comedy”.  

The group said founded the company for two reasons. Firstly, they thoroughly enjoy working together and share an undeniable performance chemistry and rapport. Secondly, creating this company provides them with a valuable support system.  

“The theatre industry can be quite competitive, working together means we have each other to lean on for support in regards to creating work together,” said the group in a combined statement.  

The idea of starting the company had been on the group’s mind since their days at the Wits theatre department, but they admitted that it “always seemed so out of reach.“. However, after the success they experienced with their play Seeing Other People starting the company felt like the right move.  

The group wanted to make it clear that they are a theatre company, not a production company. “The major difference being that we don’t produce other theatre or works, except our own. We simply collaborate creatively to make a work of theatre [and to] generate online content.” 

(From left to right) James Netherlands, Martin Grendele, Sasha Karlin, Hlumie Moloi, Hira Lodhi, Naledi Modipa posing for a “fun” photo after a performance of their award nominated show Seeing Other People at Theatre on the Square. Photo: Terri-Ann Brouwers

Commenting on the roles each member fulfils, they said that the roles change depending on the project they are working on and what each member wants to take on.  

“For example, Hira Lodhi [was the] director, designer and producer of “Seeing Other People” while Martin Grendele [was the] producer and performer.”  

The team says that their long-term goals are simply “To keep working. To keep creating”. 

The future of the company looks bright as they are currently working on new theatrical and digital projects.  

FEATURED IMAGE: The six Witsies who started Top Comedy after the final run of their award nominated show, Seeing Other People, at Theatre on the Square. Photo: Terri-Ann Brouwers


DFL shines bright for the Naledi awards

DRAMA for Life (DFL) received eight Naledi Theatre Award nominations for two of its productions and one for a student who shined in her debut performance.

The Productions
Hayani and Through Positive Eyes were directed by Warren Nebe, the head of DFL. Nebe said a lot of hard work goes into producing work that is recognised by the prestigious theatre. He added “[there needs] to be a great deal of commitment and personal investment” to make the productions good.
Another element that makes the productions successful is that they deal with personal stories about real people.
Nebe said, “The challenge, then, is to be respectful to those who offer stories and present them in an honest and open way with integrity”.
Being nominated for the Naledi Theatre Awards has created many opportunities for DFL. Nebe said it’s easier to approach funders for productions and to improve on the “laboratory space for students to create art through performance”. He added that the department is taken more seriously in South Africa and internationally with this kind of recognition.

SHINING BRIGHT: Faith Busika, best newcomer nominee for the Naledi Theatre Awards, talks about the challenges with portraying true stories on stage. Photo by: Rofhiwa Madzena

SHINING BRIGHT: Faith Busika, best newcomer nominee for the Naledi Theatre Awards, talks about the challenges with portraying true stories on stage.
Photo by: Rofhiwa Madzena


Best Newcomer
Faith Busika, a masters student at Wits, was nominated for best newcomer for her role in Through Positive Eyes. Busika enjoyed the aspect of being able to perform real stories of people, which she said is different from playing a created character. She said, “What made the performance good was its human context and the endless rehearsals where your every emotions were watched to make sure you’re authentic on stage”. She also said, “The production opened me up as an individual [and also] opened other doors to act in this genre”.

The Competition

The other productions that DFL was up against included mainstream productions which include some of the best actors and directors in South Africa. Other nominations include best ensemble, cutting edge production, best male performer, best musical score, and best new South African script.
The award ceremony will be on March 17 at the Lyric Theatre at Gold Reef City.