Pupils to take on ‘Woza Albert!’

Neo Bodumela

ONE of the co-authors of one of South Africa’s greatest plays – an iconic work written more than 30 years ago – will be watching it staged by two Alexander Road High School pupils in Nelson Mandela Bay for only two shows this weekend.

The production of the acclaimed Woza Albert!, which is set in apartheid South Africa, will be staged at 7.30pm today and tomorrow at the Port Elizabeth Opera House.

Last year, Alexander Road High School pupils Phiwe Phekana and Sinakho Calata staged the play. For their efforts, they bagged a joint best actor award at the Showtime awards earlier this year. Also, Nadine Kemp won best director for the play.

The influential piece was written by theatre legends and playwrights Mbongeni Ngema, Percy Mtwa and Barney Simon over three decades ago and still carries a prestige that young actors are honoured to recreate.

“We decided to do something different from the other children because they are all participating in the big school play.

“I must say that this is a very challenging play because it is just the two of us doing 26 acts and acting out different characters as well. [Also], it has taken a lot out of us.

“But we are very excited to be part of this and we are even more excited that the original director and co-writer of the play, Mbongeni Ngema, will watch us put on his play,” Calata said.

The fast-paced and energetic play imagines what would happen if Jesus Christ came back during apartheid and plays on the absurdities of the oppressive system.

The two young actors are determined to put on a good stage display, though the play is a challenging production.

“We started preparing for this since the beginning of the year with the help of our director, Nadine Kemp. We are a bit nervous, but are pulling out all the stops to make it the best we can. We are keeping our focus on what we need to do to make it our best performance,” Calata said.

Because of the difficult racial issues that form the theme of the play, Calata said the two did research on the apartheid era in order to re-enact it.

“I have learnt a lot, through this play, about what happened during the apartheid era. I have become quite emotional … In order to act out the scenes properly, and to portray the characters properly, I talked to my mom about the things that happened before we gained freedom. [Also], we have tried to learn as much as we can about our past as South Africans,” he said.

Ngema will address pupils at the PE Opera House today at 2pm. Those attending will include drama pupils from various high schools, as well as other artists from the metro.

Tickets for the 70-minute show cost R40 and are available at Computicket.

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