Compiled by : Siyanda Buthelezi
Actor Spaces recommends these plays for aspiring Actors and those established in the industry, to sharpen their theatre, film and television knowledge. These plays assist the Actor in choosing monologue material to exercise and enhance their performance muscles. Actors are encouraged to read plays as this increases their knowledge of their history and how it affects their acting through different mediums of story-telling. These are the best South African Plays, written and performed by well-respected theatre practitioners in South Africa.
1. Title: ‘Woza Albert!’
Playwright: Mbongeni Ngema, Percy Mtwa, Barney Simon
Description: Woza Albert! is a satirical play written by Mbongeni Ngema, Percy Mtwa and Barney Simon. The play is set in the Apartheid Era and was first performed at the Market Theatre in 1983. The two-man show aimed to fight against the oppression and inequalities faced by Black South Africans under the Apartheid Regime.
The play is a form of Protest Theatre, a tool that enables actors to be provocative in their story-telling upon reflection of their society and its inferior complexities.
The two-man masterpiece raises the actors’ knowledge by increasing their awareness of the political world around them.
2. Title: ‘Sizwe Banzi Is Dead’
Playwright: Athol Fugard, collaboratively with John Kani and Winston Ntshona
Description: Fugard’s ever-provocative play guarantees undeniable humour, the exploration of existentialism and mass death. The play takes its audience on a journey of juxtaposed emotions, through anger, warmth and laughter.
Against the backdrop of the Apartheid Era, Sizwe Banzi is Dead serves a powerful indictment of the dehumanizing effects of the pass laws that stripped the identity of Black South Africans. The two-man masterpiece follows the life of Sizwe Banzi, who struggles to get a work permit to which will allow him to feed his family.
The play is recommended as it relies solely on the actor’s ability to create an illusion for the audience, through the use of minimal set and props but a pass book, enabling the actor to explore different ways of using symbols not as literary devices.
3.Title: ‘Ubu and the Truth Commission’
Playrights: Willian Kentridge, Jane Taylor and Handspring Puppet Company
Description: Ubu and the Truth Commission is a piece of theatre, devised through actors and puppetry to tell a fictional story on a testimony from South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
The use of actors, projections, archived footage and puppetry serves as a skill of unmatched aesthetic upon reflection of the political acts.
Pa Ubu’s nature is through instruments of Apartheid violence, spies, policemen and assassins, as a representation of the acts that they were subjected to.
The narration of the play will enable the actor to make an analysis of the structure, how the scenes flow and how levels of tension and conflict enhance imagination and a narrative.
4. Title: ‘Have you seen Zandile?’
Playwright: Gcina Mhlophe
Description: Have You Seen Zandile? Is an amazing play written by Gcina Mhlophe, as it follows the story of Little Zandile who is snatched away from her grandmother, to live with her matriarchal family.
The play gives insight of the issues of white dominance, black female repression and rural hardships that Mhlophe bases on her childhood experiences.
The theatrical devices used such as the use of song, script and direction can be used as a tool to bring respect for the craft to the actor. These devices also help the actor narrow their focus on the type of mediums they want to work on and how to execute them.
5. Title: “Boesman and Lena”
Playwright: Athol Fugard
Description: Fugard’’ anti-apartheid Boesman and Lena made its debut in 1969.
The play is set in Swartkops, Port Elizabeth, a two-act play that is based on a non-white couple and effects that Apartheid had on their lives. The couple spend their lives travelling from place to place after being removed foretells from their home, a harsh reality of how the separate racial groups law had on them.
One of the plays major themes is “Homelessness”, that millions of non-white South Africans were subjected to after the passing of Forced Removals and Group Areas Act. Fugard explores how they were removed from their homes and communities leading to great depression and loss of hope and meaning in their lives.
The stunning visuals from set design, lighting and props have several outcomes such as setting the mood and tone of the entire masterpiece.
FunFact: “Boesman and Lena” -Was adapted to a film by John Berry , staring Danny Glover and Angela Bassett.
6. Title: “Tswalo”
Playwright: Billy-Edward Langa in collaboration with Mahlatsi Mokgonyana
Description: Tswalo, a one-man show, celebrating the art of solo performance. The expression of stories through poetry and physical storytelling, as way of interrogation of laws that life on earth is governed by. Power, politics, creation and intuition are at the centre of the timeless space we have on earth.
Tswalo is a creative collaboration by Billy Langa and directed by Mahlatsi Mokgonyana. Order Tswalo Info@theatreduoco.com alternative space to get the book is a book store in Braam,THE COMMUNE.