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

RELATED ARTICLES:

Review: Vumani Oedipus at the Market

A new theatre culture is being created at The Market Theatre. A culture that goes beyond the boundaries of the spoken word by using a collection of languages, performances and emotions.

Vumani Oedipus is a collaborative effort between the Wits Theatre and The Market Theatre in Johannesburg. The play is a reworking of the classic Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex into an African rendition. Directed by Wits School of Arts (WSOA) lecturer Dr Samuel Ravengai, the majority of the cast and crew are Wits students with two students from The Market Laboratory Drama School also included.

CAMARA-2779

POWER HUNGRY: Edipha (Lucky Ndlovu) kneels in front of three of the seven imbongis and Jocasta (Nomfundo Shezi) during the performance of Vumani Oedipus at The Market Theatre. Photo: Samantha Camara

Friday night’s performance was nothing short of energetic and focused making it difficult to choose a single stand-out moment. Each action was met with an equal reaction that made the story flow effortlessly and the hour fly by quicker than one would have hoped.

Lucky Ndlovu (Edipha) and Nomfundo Shezi (Jocasta) are the striking lead pair whose interactions captivate the audience throughout the performance.

The theatre was filled with a diverse group of audience members who laughed, gasped and sympathised with the characters.

The play is performed in about 60 percent English and the remainder in a variety of Nguni languages such as isiZulu, Seswati, isiXhosa and Ndebele. Despite the variety of languages used in the play and the intentional abscence of subtitles or interpretation, it is simple to follow even if you only understand one of the languages used.

The performance relies far more on emotion and physical performance than the spoken word.  The facial expressions from perfomers such as Sibusiso Mkhize (Kiliyoni) were more than enough to follow what is happening.

CAMARA-3012

TRAGEDY: From front, Edipha (Lucky Ndlovu) is helped up by the court attendant (Sandile Mazibuko) while Kiliyoni (Sibusiso Mkize) watches during the performance of Vumani Oedipus at The Market Theatre. Photo: Samantha Camara

Although the story of Edipha was one of prophesised tragedy and the audience left the theatre feeling heart sore for the characters, there were a number of light-hearted moments. Fumani Moeketsi (Thilesi The Sangoma) was responsible for many of these moments with her witty retorts and fiesty attitude.

The performance flowed perfectly from beginning to end and it was a pleasure to watch young talent perform with such passion, energy and professionalism.

Vumani Oedipus is showing at The Market Theatre’s Barney Simon Theatre until Sunday, October 11.

 

Wits Drama at The Market Theatre

Wits Theatre has collaborated in The Market Theatre for a play called Vumani Oedipus, opening in October.

Vumani Oedipus, a play by Wits School of Arts (WSOA), will be showing at The Market Theatre in October.

The collaboration “came about by default, it wasn’t planned” said director and WSOA lecturer Dr Samuel Ravengai. Due to a number of productions running simultaneously, there was a shortage of performers so Ravengai had the idea to approach The Market Laboratory Drama School, the training branch of The Market Theatre. “Three [The Market Laboratory students] got places, one of them has fallen out so I’m using two and the rest are from Wits Theatre”.

Vumani Oedipus is an “an Africanisation of the classic murder mystery”, the ancient Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex or Oedipus The King, according to the WSOA website. “The play is classified as a Greek play but if you look at the history of performance, the so-called Greek civilisation and it’s so called Greek plays are actually an off-shoot of African performances” said Ravengai.

PLAYING AROUND: Director Dr Samuel Ravengai (far left) makes a joke while directing cast members Sibusiso Mkhize, Nomfundo Shezi and Lucky Ndlovu (left to right) during a photoshoot for Vumani Oedipus, a collaborative production between Wits Theatre and The Market Theatre.

PLAYING AROUND: Director Dr Samuel Ravengai (far left) makes a joke while directing cast members Sibusiso Mkhize, Nomfundo Shezi and Lucky Ndlovu (left to right) during a photoshoot for Vumani Oedipus, a collaborative production between Wits Theatre and The Market Theatre. Photo: Samantha Camara

Ravengai explained that his motivation for doing this play was to ground the work in an African context, saying that he was, “appropriating what was stolen or taken or appropriated from Africa and replanting it back into the African stories”.

Ravengai hopes the play will show “the possibility that South African theatre has, which is a celebration of our collective identities”.  He added that, “It is possible to create a uniquely South African theatre that celebrates everybody in this kind of performance, which I think has not been done in many years at Wits and at The Market Theatre.

The play strives to develop a new theatre culture that encourages transformation by incorporating a number of languages and traditions.

“For the first time at Wits and the first time at The Market Theatre we are going to do a play where English occupies about 60 to 65 percent of the linguistic content of the play and the rest of it will be Nguni languages, which is Zulu, Seswati, isiXhosa and Ndebele. I am not going to be using titles because theatre has its own language.”

Vumani Oedipus runs from 6 -11 October at the Barney Simon Theatre at The Market Theatre.

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