Soweto gets new theatre

2012-05-21 19:39
Johannesburg - Playwright, director and actor John Ledwaba is set to open a new theatre in Soweto.

The R150m Soweto Theatre complex with a 436-seat main stage and two smaller stages attached to it will open this Friday as part of an ambitious redevelopment plan by the city of Johannesburg for the township.

The new theatre resembles a giant child's toy with walls clad in bright blue, yellow and red tiles and a tent-like entrance covered in an awning of white canvass. Sophisticated and modern, it contrasts sharply with the community halls where plays in Soweto were once performed.

Ledwaba had a bit of advice for the new theatre's management: "Please, no weddings and parties!" The director wants a stage devoted to theatre where audiences can see sophisticated and challenging work.

"I come from a history of using theatre to fight," he said.

'Living at the margins of society'

Steven Sack, acting chief executive officer of the new theatre said he envisioned plays moving from Soweto's halls to the new theatre he oversees.

He added that black South Africans were once "living at the margins of our society." The theatre is part of efforts to change that.

The CEO said the next step in redevelopment plans is the renovation of the nearby Jabulani Amphitheatre, which has since the 1950s hosted concerts as well as major funerals and political events.

The Suitcase will be first production to be shown at the new theatre on Friday.It will bring together some of South Africa's best-known and most beloved talent.

The play is based on a story by the late Es'kia Mphahlele about poverty, desperation and hope.

The production has music by Hugh Masekela, choreography by Gregory Maqoma, and is directed by James Ngcobo.