It’s been 50 years since the legendary award winning playwright and one part member of the ‘Drum Boys’ (Drum Writer’s): Can Themba has passed on. He left a legacy of stories that have long since been readapted for the stage and screen. To honor the genius and to celebrate his life, The Market Theatre revisits his works. His renowned piece ‘The Suit’ is revived yet again in the hands of The Market Theatre’s artistic director, James Ncgobo.
“This year marks 50 years since Can Themba’s passing and I felt that as The Market Theatre, we needed to celebrate this giant”
The commemoration kicked off in January, with Can Themba’s ‘House of Truth’; a one hander readapted by Siphiwo Mahala, starring Sello Maake kaNcube.
We met with the cast, briefly during a rehearsal stint at the Market Theatre and spectated as James
held the space, as commander and chief, directing the actors at play. I asked “of all the stories Can Themba has furnished us with, how did you select which one to tell?”
“with all the jewels Themba has left behind” he says, “selecting the play was easy.” He had been watching Zola Nombona on screen for a while and he relays how she stood out in the audition room. “She has a lovely bravery and her acting is natural. She just appears like a submarine.”
Nombona is the youngest actor to fill Matilda’s shoes and is the second to play the character at The Market Theatre, this is also her first big theatre break. The play was first performed at the Market by Sello Maake kaNcube; Stella Khumalo; Job Kubatsi and Alistair Dube.
The new cast brings a twist to the story, it features the likes of Siyabonga Twala of Isibaya fame as Philemon: Matilda’s husband; Molefi Monaise; Andile Nobulane; Lesedi Motladi and Lindani Nkosi.
Nkosi sets the scene as the narrator, introducing the story. “ I am the person who turns the pages. I am the person that navigates Matilda’s memory and the events of Matilda’s life with Philemon.”
He also plays another small character named Joe. Joe he says, represents the society and epitomizes the lifestyle and the environment surrounding Matilda and Philemon.
Nkosi commends James on his creative output. He says ‘The Suit’ is not written like a normal play where you have dialogue from beginning to end, “There are story telling techniques that pose a difficulty on the director and how he tackles the play. This is where James nailed it. He created three narrator’s coming in and out of narration by playing small roles that represent the society.
Interpreting the language of the play was a dynamic obstacles for Nkosi. “You seldom use words like heather to, you write them down” Nkosi had to develop his own rhythmn to denote Themba’s language.
“He was a learn-ed man.”
Catch the last round of ‘The Suit’ and the stellar cast Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Market Theatre. For time please see www.markettheatre.co.za