Sophiatown returns to The Market Theatre

Sophiatown returns to The Market Theatre! – The much-loved South African theatre classic, is making a return to its original home. Showing at the Market Theatre after it first premiered there 37 years ago.

The multi-award-winning drama with music by The Junction Avenue Theatre Company opens in February 2024. A dynamic new production directed by Aubrey Sekhabi, complete with a live band on stage.

The production comes to The Market after a hugely successful season in 2023 at The South African State Theatre in Pretoria. Aubrey Sekhabi, the Artistic Director at The State Theatre, directs this powerful and moving restaging of the iconic work.

Sekhabi has retained his creative team and cast for the Johannesburg run, which includes Lungile Cindi (Set Design), Mandala Mtshali (Lighting Designer), Zakhele Mabena (Musical Director), Bafikile Sedibe (Choreographer) and actor Terrence Ignacious Ngwila who plays Mingus.

Dealing with the script, I realised that Sophiatown is actually a drama with music and not a musical play. The text is so rich, even if you remove the songs, it will still hold up as a powerful play,” says Sekhabi about the show.

Greg Homann, the Artistic Director of The Market Theatre, commented, “It is wonderful to be able to offer our audience this beautifully crafted version of Sophiatown at The Market Theatre.

When I first saw the production at The State Theatre with a full house of school learners one Friday afternoon, I was so enthralled with how that audience connected with the history, humour, and overall impact that the work still has for us today.

It’s a privilege to welcome Sophiatown back to its home theatre. It can be shared again with those that know and love it and those seeing the work for the very first time.”

The storyline of Sophiatown

The play is based on the famous drama postulation of “what if?” During the repressive 50s, two Drum magazine journalists advertise for a tenant to come live with them in Mamariti’s shebeen in the freehold township of Sophiatown. To their surprise, a White Jewish girl from Yeoville arrives on their doorstep. Sparks fly in the milieu of Sophiatown culture that mixes Drum magazine journalism, jazz, literature, tsotsitaal and gangsterism.

Audiences will be mesmerised by the musical genres of marabi, kofifi and kwela. All inspired by the defiant residents of the mixed area, which, by its mere existence, was a thorn in the side of the Apartheid establishment.

Sekhabi spoke on the relevance of the play today: “The question of identity, landlessness, education, and race relations still haunts South Africa. A piece like Sophiatown reminds us of how far we have come and how much work is still needed to create a better South Africa”.

The play was a product of The Junction Avenue Theatre Company’s workshop method in the mid-1980s. Sourcing stories from the lived reality of the people of Sophiatown and distilling these nuggets to produce the text.

The cast includes Terence Ngwila (as Mingus), Sindisile Nkuna (as Mamariti), Gaby Georgeson (as Ruth), Mncedisi Hadebe (as Charlie), Tshallo Chokwe (as Fahfee), Princess Sechele (as Princess), Zimi Mphefu (as Lulu), Sechaba Ramphele (as Jakes), and Sandisile Dlangalala (as the understudy to Jakes). Philisiwe Ntintili assists Sekhabi on the director’s seat. The band members include Khutso Nkwana, Thebe Mmushi, M’Kaddesh Magadagela, Surprise Mshwana and Oupa Makhubela.

The production runs at The Market Theatre from 27 February to 24 March, with matinees for schools during the week and various weekend performances for the public. Book early via Webtickets for this theatre classic HERE

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