Kanyi Nokwe in Pinocchio’s Shoes


Pinocchio is an exciting adventurous story that we’re all too familiar with. Our whole lives, we’ve known about the boy who had to learn how important honesty is, to appreciate life. What we did not think of is the fact that the childhood character who always wanted to be a ‘real boy’ can be played by a woman – and more amazingly, a black woman. This step pulls South African theatre into the right direction. Actress Kanyi Nokwe is beyond honoured to be filling the shoes Sbu Hadebe’s; who played Pinocchio during the first Pantomime, written and directed by Janis Honeyman.

Kanyi Nokwe sees this role as an opportunity to ‘pave-a-new-way-forward’ for our theatres. Landing the leading character for a role predominantly played by males does not just speaks to the fact that black women are able to do anything, but similarly that characters are fluid. When it comes to talent and performance, Nokwe hopes that such a role will introduce a different mind-set in South African theatre: that actors are not males and females but rather talented human beings; “I hope one day we won’t have best male actor and best female actress at award ceremonies but rather best actor”, she says. Nokwe believes acting is about execution and not gender, that the person just needs to be right for the role. “It should be about how the person can portray the character” and of course Kanyi showed the casting agents that she deserves the role. Not only was she scouted for the it but she was also one of two women against roughly nine to eleven males, auditioning to play Pinocchio.
This opportunity has catapulted Kanyi’s career to where she would like it to be. She has been passionate about her craft since the age of six, and for the past twenty years she has been sculpting her passion into a skill that is being recognised in 2017. She claims that this is her breakthrough year. She featured on SABC’s Tjovitjo and now she’s playing Pinocchio in Janis Honeyman’s 30th Annual Pantomime.

Kanyi is excited to be showcasing the play to children and adults from all around. What she loves most about a Pantomime is that it is interactive, there is no fourth wall, and she is able to hear and see the excitement in the children’s voices – and adults too – as they call for Pinocchio. She feels such plays open a fantasy world for the audience and she can’t help but be engulfed by it too. It helps that the rest of the cast is full of hilarious, talented people that excite her every day when she goes to work. She draws inspiration from her co-workers. She also looks to the children in her family, and the children on the streets to capture the innocent energy that we lose as adults. This allows her to create relatability with her audience; a memory for adults, a reality for the children.

Kanyi Nokwe continuously mentions how honoured she is to participate in something this historical. She will inspire the young and the old to reach for their dreams and to make history. She reminds us that we need to work smart and work hard. Her impact in the theatre is sure to inspire more actors to go for roles they never expect to play. Kanyi aims to learn from this experience so one day she can create stories this moving for the black audience. She wishes to create black Pantomimes with stories that black children can truly relate to and people on the outside can learn about. Nokwe truly is inspirational and her hard work is definitely paying off. Not only is she talented but she’s friendly and bubbly too. It is no surprise she has made it this far with such a positive attitude.

Pinocchio run untill the 30th December at the Jo’burg theatre

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