A powerful SA theatre classic revived

Suter’s Showbiz Spotlight

What a privilege to see one of South Africa’s most important and successful plays staged in Durban again after a long absence. And what a bonus to have it performed by the original stars of the acclaimed two-hander, both of them also creators of the play.

Running without an interval for what seems like a very quick 90 minutes, and unfolding on a stage bare, but for two wooden boxes and a suspended plank of timber from which hang assorted shirts, blankets and jackets, Woza, Albert, at Durban’s Playhouse, has long been one of the country’s finest examples of protest theatre and a lustrous showcase for exemplary, imaginative acting.

Conceived, workshopped and produced by Mbongeni Ngema and Percy Mtwa (pictured above), under the direction of the late Barney Simon, and first staged in the early 1980s, the production has gone on to play internationally and collect 20 awards globally.

Seeing it again almost four decades after its debut, this time under the direction of Christopher John, the work remains as powerful as ever. Topical as ever too, as for all the changes in this beautiful land since Woza, Albert first stabbed with its satire, the revival underscores just how much has stayed the same.

Topics of racism, poverty and inequality – highlighted in the play via a number of everyday South African characters, all played by Ngema and Mtwa – still, all these years later, blot South Africa’s progress, ensuring that Woza Albert remains relevant, biting and thought-provoking.

Woza, Albert is one of the highlights of my theatre-going year and is highly recommended. Read my full review by clicking here

The production, which has an age restriction of 13, is at Durban’s Playhouse Loft until December 23. It then transfers to The Playhouse’s larger Drama theatre for a final run between December 27 and 30.

Tickets cost R150 and are available through Computicket or the Playhouse box-office at 031 369 9540 / 369 9596 (office hours).

Cinderella’s horse-drawn coach at the Durban Botanic Gardens’ Trail of Lights.

Still in Durban, note that if you do only one thing with the kids this festival season make sure it is to visit the Botanic Gardens for the second annual Trail of Lights, a spectacular display of festive lighting.

Tickets cost only R50 a head online and it is real value for money – and profits go to various charities.

Trail of Lights involves the gardens being illuminated with thousands of coloured lights, as well as special costumed characters and features such as Santa in his Sleigh, a large Talking Tree, an ice-blue castle, a fairy nook and the like.

Charities

An initiative in support of various charities, the event was a great success last year, so the organisers have decided to extend the run for 2018. Trail of Lights opened on December 14 and will be available from 6.30pm to 9.30pm nightly, until December 30.

Besides a number of illuminated attractions – including many rows of tree trunks in different sparkling hues, angels, swans, giant paper butterflies, candy canes with bows and signs; signs saying Joy, Peace and Love, and a collection of Zulu shields – the event also features live music daily at the park’s lake area.

The music flows from 7.30pm to 8.30pm – and includes not only piped carols but also performances by solo artists dotted around the park.

For my full review and many other pictures from the event click here

A reminder that another big Durban treat for children this year is Cinderella, the 14th pantomime by the KickstArt theatre company.

Bumper delight

The show, which runs until January 6 at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, is as much a bumper delight as one could anticipate. Richly embroidered with fresh topicality in song choices, nudge-winks and performances, it is a giddy, glittering and gorgeous show from the Durban duo with the Midas touch – award-winning writer-director Steven Stead and designer Greg King.

It boasts an attractive and talented cast, some splendid voices, uniformally good lighting from Tina le Roux and spectacular sets from King.

Ticket prices range from R140 to R240 each. Booking is at Computicket. The theatre has its own generator, so loadshedding should pose no problems.

For my full review click here

Miriam Erasmus and puppets are the stars of Suzy Visits the North Pole.

Also worth diarising is a fun children’s hand-puppet pantomime by Miriam Erasmus, Suzy Visits the North Pole, which is being presented at 11am on December 21 and 22 at the Rhumbelow Theatre in Umbilo, Durban.

The show has Suzy at a North Pole, meeting a lost penguin, Jack Frost, Olav the Polar Bear, Mr Magic Midnight, the beautiful Snow and Santa. Tickets cost R60 and booking is at Computicket or by calling 082 499 8636.

On the music scene, note that jazz band 38 Degrees Rising will perform from 7pm on Saturday, December 22, at Durban’s Jazzy Rainbow, 93 Smiso Nkwanyana Road, Morningside. Admission is R80 and more details are available by phoning 031 303 8398.

Presented in association with Concerts SA, the concert will see 38 Degrees Rising performing a wide range of styles within the jazz framework. Their repertoire features original compositions along with reworkings of standards and jazz interpretations of contemporary pop.

The concert at the Jazzy Rainbow will focus on straight-ahead guitar based jazz, featuring material by artists such as Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell and Joe Pass. Songs covered will included 4 on 6, West Coast Blues, Little Sunflower, Alice in Wonderland, Wave, Blue Monk, ’Round Midnight and Take Five.

Max Mikula, Devan Hore and Logan Byrne of jazz band 38 Degrees Rising.

After years of freelance work, 38 Degrees Rising guitarist and composer Max Mikula spent four years on the road with acoustic pop group Henry Ate and solo artist Karma, performing on two award-winning albums.

He then fronted Afro/World band Tsunami, featuring his own original material. He has since toured nationally and in the UK, Canada and the Netherlands.

Along with performing, he teaches music at several Durban schools.

Bass player Logan Byrne of 38 Degrees Rising has been playing electric and double bass in a variety of genres (from reggae, world music, pop, rock, funk, and jazz) of music and groups in and around KZN for over 30 years.

Drummer Devon Hore has worked with a number of artists, including Gerald Sloan, Melvin Peters, Philani Ngidi, Tresor Riziky, Ewok, Pinkie Mshali, and Burton Naidoo. He has also shared the stage with supporting acts for Heels Over Head, Marcus Wyatt, Jimmy Dludlu, Afro Soul, Third Day, Ringo and Gangs of Ballet.

Jazz Xpression

Another music date… a jazz feast has been planned for 10am on Saturday, December 22, at Durban’s Jazz Xpression House, 20 Wright Place, Carrington Heights, when the spotlight will be on popular pianists Sibusiso “Mash” Mashiloane and Sanele Phakathi.

Admission is R250, including food (bring your own drinks), and booking is via dumi@jazzxpressions.co.za

iSupport Music Business in partnership with Concerts SA presents the Real Cats End of the Year Session at Jazz Xpression House.

Mashiloane is a prolific artist whose academic credentials speak volumes for the passion and discipline he has for music. He has a Masters in Jazz Performance and graduated Cum Laude from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Mash has been well received by audiences while touring to promote his two albums Amanz’ Olwandle (2016) and Rotha – A Tribute to Mama (2017).

Umlazi-born Sanele is a contemporary singer and pianist. He is widely known for playing the piano/keys for some of SA’s most celebrated jazz musicians, including Mbuso Mbusuyeza Khoza, Xolisa Roro Gqoli-Dlamini, Nhlanhla Mahlangu and Philani Ngidi.

The Sanele Phakathi Quintet performs at a variety of venues in and around Durban.

Hailee Steinfeld and the title character in Bumblebee, now in cinemas.

On the movie scene, new in cinemas countrywide this weekend is the eagerly anticipated Mary Poppins Returns, with Emily Blunt as the magical nanny and Lin-Manuel Miranda as her pal. Directed by Rob (Chicago) Marshall, the film is set two decades after Poppins’s original visit, and sees the nanny returns to help the Banks siblings and Michael’s children through a difficult time in their lives.

Travis Knight has directed Bumblebee, another new cinema release, teaming Hailee Steinfeld, Dylan O’Brien and Megyn Price.

On the run in the year 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie, on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken.

Also opening countrywide this weekend is Aquaman, with James Wan directing and Jason Momoa in the title role.

Momoa plays Arthur Curry, who learns that he is the heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, and must step forward to lead his people and be a hero to the world.

SHOWBIZ TRIVIA:
Do you know? What was the name of the trendy toy that Arnold Schwarzenegger battled to find for his young son while Christmas shopping in the 1996 film comedy, Jingle All the Way? (Answer next week).
Last week’s question: What Wham Christmas hit contained the lyric: “…but the very next day, you gave it away”? (Answer: Last Christmas).