The Baxter’s Zabalaza Theatre Festival returns for its ninth edition, from 8 to 16 March, with fresh and vibrant works and a weekend programme for the whole family.
The festival line-up includes nearly 40 productions and events with well over 100 performers, showcasing some of the finest theatre and emerging artists from all over the Western Cape.
The team behind the festival comprises award-winning actor and director Mdu Kweyama as curator, artistic director Bongile Mantsai, coordinator Zoleka Helesi, administrator Jestine Sias and Monde Myataza for marketing and sales. They promise a programme filled with innovation, relevance and originality.
Continued support from the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, the City of Cape Town, Distell, HCI Foundation and Pick n Pay has enabled the sustained growth of the festival over the years, helping it to maintain its reputation as one of the leading development platforms of its kind in South Africa.
Following the success of the Zabalaza Challenge in 2018, this ticket-donation initiative will once again contribute in a meaningful way to not only the festival, but also to the artists and the arts.
Baxter chief executive and artistic director Lara Foot, who introduced the challenge last year, encourages and challenges individuals, businesses, corporates and organisations to join her in buying tickets in bulk, at only R30 per ticket. These tickets are then donated to those unable to afford them.
“This is an investment in the future of theatre-making in the Western Cape. Not only will these tickets be given to learners or communities who cannot afford to purchase them, the door takings from each show will also go straight back to the groups or artists, which, in turn, means more plays by more talented artists,” she said.
University of Cape Town Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng will be the keynote speaker at the gala opening this year.
The festival kicks off with the Family Carnival Weekend on 9 and 10 March. Aimed at the whole family, the programme includes a wide range of activities and shows. Every venue and space in the Baxter will come alive with energetic performances, alongside some fun family activities.
Children will be kept busy with jumping castles and face-painting, and everyone can enjoy the shows on offer, along with the food, clothing and accessory stalls.
Six productions from the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS) finals will be staged over the weekend, with participants from the Overberg, Cape Winelands, Central Karoo and Garden Route districts presenting their best work.
The weekend line-up will also boast some top local performances and artists. On the Saturday, at 15:00 in the Concert Hall, afro-jazz music sensation Liso Somila Toyi will present Mdantsane Grooves, featuring Luyolo Lenga accompanied by Wimbo Project, with artists from Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Cape Town.
“[The Zabalaza Challenge] is an investment in the future of theatre-making in the Western Cape.”
At 16:30 in the Theatre, hip-hop music artist Pzho Thee Kulguy and friends will stage an all hip-hop concert called Incwadi (The Book).
Popular comedian Siya Seya returns to the festival to offer all the laughs in his exclusive isiXhosa comedy show titled Critical but Stable at 19:00 in the Baxter Concert Hall. Reggae Edition, which is on simultaneously in the Masambe Theatre, brings reggae music from the streets of Khayelitsha, Gugulethu and Mitchells Plain into the mainstream.
Rising afro-jazz young star Linomtha, along with Sobantwan and Buhlebendalo Mda of The Soil fame, will present She Multiplied on the Sunday at 15:00 in the Theatre. The show is dedicated to the women of South Africa and celebrates legends like Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Busi Mhlongo, Miriam Makeba and Dorothy Masuka.
Award-winning actor/director Thando Doni’s new play Isithyilelo examines the scourge of corrupt priests who misuse their powers by urging congregations to donate money to the church and who become rich in the process, while the poor remain poor. Doni, who was last seen in the Baxter’s production of #JustMen, will be showcased on the Platform for Special Talent at the Zabalaza Festival. Shows are on 11, 13 and 15 March at 19:00 in the Golden Arrow Studio.
The main festival runs from 11 to 16 March with daily shows at 10:00, 11:30, 16:30 and 19:00. The productions being staged include the strongest offerings selected from four mini festivals that took place over two weekends in Khayelitsha, Delft, Nyanga and Langa.
On 16 March, at 19:00 in the Concert Hall, the acclaimed poetry and spoken word group Lingua Franca explores how fatherlessness affects young black males from the townships in post-colonial South Africa via poetry, images and sounds. It is directed by Lwanda Sindaphi.
The festival will close with an awards ceremony on Saturday, 16 March, where accolades will be presented to artists and productions in various categories. The Best of the Zabalaza Theatre Festival winner will be announced, and the production will receive a two-week run at the Baxter in May.
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