Ten New South African Contemporary Plays

Mpilo Nzimande as Benny

I believe we have new voices, people have something to say.  We need more dramaturge, more writing mentors. I am fortunate to have that in my writing endeavours. We need more plays to show new works. We do not  need venues closing down. What we need is innovation and experimental platforms. This is why Sbonelo Mgilane and I co-founded Durban Womens Playwrights for those reasons.

I have been reading quite a few anthologies especially about South African plays. It left me thinking that—there is a new wave of contemporary writing out there—a new wave of drama schools, students— not only wanting to read classics. Yes! classics are great and absolutely necessary but now the focus should shift to which contemporary voices are there and what they writing about also something to think about  at most times classics are not classifying today’s issues, like Mental health, Homosexuals, Mixed relationships, Women migration and so forth.  And you often find works feel like they are outdated. The new wave of creators are hungry for current issues and topical issues.

The past two months I have been contacted by young theatre enthusiasts, wanting to read my work and I say this with such great gratitude, that I am surprised and moved by them even enquiring about my work. I was sitting in a reading room few days ago and I was surrounded by plays from Greek mythology to South African  classics, and a tad potion of plays published by Junkets. This publishing house deceives all the funding by the way!  I am so grateful that there is a platform like Zabalaza and junkets that work hand in hand to publishing works.

This is necessary, but I cannot help wonder, how does a student from Kwahlabisa  high school and Entshonalanga primary school and Durban high school know about this play? How does a student doing drama at Kcap even get to read this plays?

Accessibility guys!!

There is so much that our art sector can do in making  this even a possibility. I sat in that room contemplating and wondering. Then I thought what plays have I seen, that spark new voices of South Africa. This is my opinion, hey… In this post I will include my self, yes I am that girl who likes her own post. Let’s get to it.

This is in no particular order. For those who have a nag  to compile plays for anthologies, this post might be for you.  I am aware that a lot goes in compiling,  the same happens  with everything unfortunately. These are produced plays that I have seen, or played in.

Isambulo 1 by Ntando Cele

A story told in isiZulu about death and self-righteousness, a play that examines family dysfunction fuelled by religious frenzy and desperate circumstances. A cutting-edge new isiZulu two hander, Isambulo 1, which examines an estranged Mother/Son relationship. Set in 2014, in a small mixed suburb in KZN.

NewFoundLand by Neil Coppen

NewFoundLand is the latest play by Neil Coppen and focuses on the intertwining lives and dreams of two South African men Jacques: an Afrikaans anesthetist based in a Pietermartizburg community hospital and Sizwe: a choreographer and student at UKZN who has received a calling (Ukuthwasa) from his ancestors to become a Sangoma.Both men have been raised in conservative communities and are attempting to forge spaces for themselves separate from the cultural, historical and religious forces that seem to bind them to the past.When Jacques and Sizwe meet for a casual sex hook-up, what is meant to be a brief exchange turns into a profound journey into shared consciousness, and an exploration into the seemingly invisible materials that exist between religion and science, medicine and faith and memory and forgetting.

Salty Pillows By Philisiwe Twijnstra

Salty Pillows is a simple yet circuitous story of love, culture, race, death and life, a story about a black woman married to a white man who finds herself locked away in a psychiatric room declared as mentally disturbed with signs of psychosis because she is visited every night by a her dead father-in-law. As the story unfolds it is revealed that Zandile is pregnant with a dutch baby this changes every- thing between Father-in-law and Zandile.
Will the change be for good or worse?

Six Inches by Kristy Sutner

Three unlikely friends share sizzling stories dealing with love, lust and everything between the sheets. The wedding might be over, but the bridesmaids have a long night ahead of them. It’s everything you want to know and everything you never want to talk about. What would we do without Six Inches? Fears, fantasies and fetishes feature in this fun romp behind the scenes at a less than ordinary girls night. Come be a fly on the wall!

Izipopolo by Musawenkosi Shabalala, Bongumusa Shabalala and Neil Coppen

The play explores what happens when one of the brothers decides to forge an identity separate from the other, and whether or not it is possible for each to exist and function in isolation. Calling on local traditions of story-telling and physical theatre, the creators of Izipopolo weave a compelling tale of brotherhood, love, loss and duality, combining a rich range of twin mythology from across the African continent, Zulu folklore and the lived experiences of the twin performers and narrators. Izipopolo offers a fascinating glimpse into the intertwined identities of twin siblings and how society around them grapples to comprehend and make sense of this unusual phenomenon. Most of all, the play explores the unshakeable and often complex bond that exists between brothers.

Sillage by Penelope Youngleson

Sillage | /si:’ja:?/ the degree to which a perfume’s fragrance lingers in the air when worn. Sillage is the disquieting story of three generations of South African women and how their matriarchy sustains them – until they must pack up the family home.With cloying tensions heavy in the air, and lifetimes measured out in lost earrings, orphaned pen lids, and long-forgotten postcards; mother and daughter have to fit themselves into the (cardboard) boxes they’ve been avoiding their whole lives.

Tau By Thabiso T. Rammala

Tau is set in the Free State where cultural norms and traditional practices still play an important part in the community. Tau lives in a conflict of modern and traditional norms deeply rooted in African history and mythology. His father is a traditionalist and a community elder and his mother a neo-traditionalist with the ability to be swayed. Confronted by this conflict, Tau embarks on a journey of discovering his manhood, himself and his Sesotho culture.

Sleep (Less) by Aneshree Paul & Lechelle Lerm

The play portrays a lesbian who cannot seem to fall sleep showing irrational and raw truth that surface with sleep deprivation. The main themes are that of being lesbian woman in society and the fear that shapes identity and interaction in a day to day life

The Kids from Amandla Street by Lereko Mfono

In a street that carries a significant heritage, live four kids; Obi, Jimmy, Palesa and Lillian. Together they grapple with issues of identity, school, distanced parents and the desires to see the completion of the street.In their transition years of 12, playing becomes an experience they need but also feel to detach from. A neighbourhood Watchman presents a challenge that leaves them having to reach deep within to climb out of the confines placed by the society they exist in.

She said She said by Binnie Christie

What happens when you leave your new girlfriend in your house alone for the first time? Does she go and do the domestic chores thing: iron your sheets, cook and clean so that you will return overwhelmed with her pre-1950s womanly values and discipline? Does she roll around languidly on your sheets, thinking about last night? Or maybe she goes and does her own work, to put her mind off how much she misses you? But perhaps she turns manic and rifles through your stuff, with a voracious urgency to find out all your secrets and explore all your most intimate flaws. She said, She said teases the possibilities open. Be afraid. Be very afraid.



Naledi his Love Thoughts (The Hlomu Series)

IMG_20171231_144959I just finished  reading Naledi His love.

( From the Hlomu Series… Which I honestly think, it should have been titled as “The Saga of Zulu Brothers, Or The Zulu Series, Or the chronicles of being a Zulu or the Zulu Paper or… well you get where I am going with that… )

I must say, It’s not puzzling why people are drawn and immensely addicted to this book series. It’s full of drama, full of suspense, full of thriller, full of romance, full of killings and tragedies, full of dialogue.

Full off, Full off!!! these full offs can go for forever…

It is just packed with things to be gobsmacked by.

This series is written by…Well… you all know but incase the name slipped your mind.

It was written by the gorgeous, talented Dudu Busani Dube. First of all I am so inspired by the hard work, the drive and courage but also for the author to see the gab to write like this, she might have not known it then but she has incited people who don’t read to read because of these books and its hype.

The hype got me as well.. my Facebook could not stop letting me know  about the Hlomu Series… For two years, I was wondering how will I get my hands on that book because everyone is talking about it, once I saw a car guard reading the book.

Writer Goals right?

That is a dream come true, surely I guess that was the target market. The book is some kind of a pill, you can’t put it down for some reason except when your eyes decline that you  the owner.

The author did well for her self, the readership is doing well ,really climbing the ladder. I guess that’s what we intend as writers isn’t?  for people to buy books and read them, for the general public to tweet about them.

However, I am somewhat part of a niche audience, also I presume I’m not part of the lot that is halala haleluya about the book.

I was really in question with the book.

The book shocked me to my knees, few times… no wait plenty of times actually I had to ask my-self, is this a grammar mistake, or typos or intentional? Konje, why am I in her brain? Is she writing a book herself that is why I am in her brain and not the others?  Who ’s POV is it ? What is the author trying say here, that does not make sense, where am I now? Who is this ? Who is this ? Where are we in the book? Did I jump? Let me go back. Page. page, page…Why do they talk so much? Who’s point of view is it again?

Tjeer!! I needed coffee.

Nothing beats a good coffee

As a reader, I felt I was ignored, you know when you meet two people and they so submerged in their conversation, even finishing each other sentences and a second later the person turns to you and says “Oh that happened because——“ and you there standing not being included looking like you overstayed your  visit in your own bloody house.

Yep!! That’s how I felt with Hlomu The series.

You might ask yourself why I kept reading, if I felt that way, well for few certain reasons. I will let you know them just now, hold on, I am doing the talking  R. Kelly vibes 

Haibo, as I was saying they talk and talk and talk… then I thought please I am the reader show me what you see, what you smell, what you feel (The five sense…) then I thought oh no wait this is a play not novel. This could be a perfect play. Then I started thinking like playwright to get through the book. Luckily I was able to finish the book.

This book, if it gets picked up as tv series, it could make the screenwriter’s job marvellously easy, in fact the author has done a great  job for them, the only left to do is to story line it because the beats are sort of clear.

Ms Dudu, crafted beautiful midpoint climaxes and plot points, some choices in the book were not strong enough or convincing enough at least not for me rather. For example like when Nkosana forgot the letter that got everyone especially Zandile and Naledi into a spiral mode, that midpoint climax really pushed the tension of the story and pace to be faster, from page 312 ziyabuya baba!! I, my self  got excited but the excitement was not long lived.

Therefore my question would be how come such family as the Zulus especially Hlomu who seems to be the protector let the letter slip away that easily, how come the family did not burn the letter immediately?  That moment  Zandile found out the letter could have been the peak of the climax but it was not convincing enough. The pace was going and then it became redundant again, condensing the moment.  In the middle of the read, I thought the protagonist was not consistent, when she found out that her father killed her ex lover…

That moment! that moment! that moment!  You think kwashuba! Zamshubela! kodwa dololo. Suddenly within a page of read, she has a change of heart to quickly I would say- to easy I would think. That moment… Could have been an excellent plot climax…her father  is a killer.  The chief has killed…

Damn! Telenovela ngikutshela wena!

It was just to easy for the character to let that moment slide like that… that’s what I mean.

Here is the reason why I kept reading…

I gravitate a lot to black excellence… and no matter what I am going to say now about this book; Ms Dudu is a force to be reckon with.

The author can really write dialogue. She crafts with clear understanding of her characters, they are really believable  and funny characters hands down! And page 458 is beautifully written, I just wish the whole book carried that kind of motion. The character lets you inside her, smoothly under the suspense.


To be more critical though!!!

Please don’t shoot me…  Ms Dudu when you end up reading my two cent thoughts… three cents!!!

The narrative is adoptive, easily diverges to colloquial form, which makes a reader gravitate towards the character’s vivacity and consistency. Personally I needed to milk something out of it… I wanted to see how she writes. “Black excellence neh”

Although, I find the book dissatisfying the narrative, contained frequent repetitions and I ended up being bored. The writing, not the story lacked colour. I opted for more balance between dialogue ,action, and description. I could not stomach being annoyed by the characters, they were too talkative, Wena Owabona umuntu oyisicefe, ngoba unembebe enkulu.

The book lacked emotional build up, as a writer, I don’t think I can write LIKE that, I am more of building the world and making it more visual for the reader. I don’t know where they were, the characters in the book. I cannot remember actually.

I had to google, maserati I thought, the character named the car maserati but google told me either wise But I feel if she would have played with senses I would have known what Maserati is!!!! or am I just slow?

Yes, the author broke the rules and I fall easily for the rules, me and rules are like. . . Bridget Jones and her Diary. I think the breaking of rules was brave, it is clear that she knew the rules and the fundamentals of writing a novel, however I do wish she took time in editing.

There is no rule or what’s so ever when it comes to  editing. I feel robbed actually when I find a misspelled word or grammatical error in a published book. Self published or not! I think if this book goes for another print, Ms Dudu must partner with an editor. I know great editors that are not expensive.


The book needs some serious editing phase please!!!

On the real.

Ngicela sibuyele kwi editing… dankie, ngiyabonga.

Story-Telling with a purpose!

Philisiwe Twijnstra as Ofrah – Image by Val Adamson

Driving with our director after every rehearsals, brought me such need to know more about the foreigners, which on a normal day I would pass them and pretend as if  they do not exist.

I thought, if I didn’t look at them or talk to them, they might appreciate that I am giving them their space. However, I would never do that to a South African. I didn’t know how ignorant that may have been. I was ignorant.  I was quick to say ‘No To Xenophobia’  but I can’t even say hello, or buy from them. Instead I put them in a box, forgetting that they are here to survive just like me. They are human beings wanting nothing but to be treated as such. My ignorance was nuanced a bit when I was put in a situation that prompted me to learn and  research the stories in ‘the last country’.

the last country Poster

Being part of the last county, really disturbed me. Frustrated me. Provoked me and challenged me. From this experience I ended up wanting  to know more to know how they were, how did they come here. Where was the bravery coming from… I where was the spirit of holding on came from, the hope they have.

I felt the need to be human, to possibly greet and hug them. Tell them that, I now understand.

The Cast of  ‘the last country’

Somehow I felt even more connected because I was telling their story. I always wanted to tell stories that matter, stories about people and their experiences. Stories that challenged social cohesion. There is power in knowing someone’s story. It changes you as human. I am so grateful for the experience.

I cannot wonder about other South Africans but I know that  I am at a privilege space that has allowed me to be human.  I can do more than what I have been doing. I don’t  have millions but it surely does start with my thinking.  It starts with knowledge. It starts with learning me to not point easily. It starts with my heart and mind. It starts with with love for humanity. I am trying to not cry writing this blog, because  I have been laid back and relaxing because my territory has been safe.

That is not living. I always say I care about people. I can do more than saying.  Give hand where ever I can. Denis Hurley Centre is close by, I should befriend my self with that space. I should smile and more and converse with those whom are not like me.

Looking forward to the better me from this moment onwards…

Scene from ‘The Last Country’  – Image by Neil Coppen

Durban Womxn Playwrights Announced!

10 MinutePlays

We as Durban Womxn Playwrights are so excited to finally announce the selected playwrights of our 10 Minutes Plays for our Durban Womxn Playwrights public reading.

We’d like to say a big thank you to everyone for sending through their work. All in all we had 15 plays to read and choose from. We eventually managed to select four plays. It has been a great pleasure receiving your plays. They were all amazing!


And now we’d like to congratulate

Thobile Cele       – Defending The Plus Size 

Sthabile Mkhize    – The Fruit Tree

Nicole Masuku      – The Boogey Man is  Real

Sbonelo Mgilane    – Mirror


10 MinutePlays-2


Call for Durban Womxn Playwrights!

Durban Womxn Playwrights

Call For Women Playwrights from Durban!

Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 16.37.46


Ever thought about how fun it would be to say a lot without saying too much? We would like to challenge your writing juices, by asking you to write a 10 minute play. This play will have to have a beginning, middle and end, which should be explored within this limited amount of time. You can write about anything, but only use a maximum of four characters within this set period of time. Help us end this year off on a high note as we challenge our creativity, while entertaining the audience. All selected scripts will be brought to life by awesome actors, and you get to sit and listen to your talent being celebrated. Ready, steady, write!

Email Scripts: durbanwomenplaywrights@gmail.com

Deadline Submission

17 November 2017

When it’s yours! It is yours…

Ask and you shall be given…


Mpilo Nzimande as Benny Image by Val Adamson

Sometimes you ask for a challenge, not knowing whether will you be able to handle!!!

Two months back, oh wait it might be three months back, well it  really does not matter.  What matters is what actually happened. I always believed that if it’s mine, then it’s mine.  If the universe has granted  it for me, then with no doubt it will be mine. Maybe some bumps there and there and loop holes some where there. But it  is yours for the taking, ready and waiting.

I had had auditioned for a particular show, out of Durban, it turned out that the director shows interest in working with me but still I had to follow the right protocol to see if I fit in  what she is looking for.  I was excited about the idea of working with a female director and  I was fed up…

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When it’s yours! It is yours…

Mpilo Nzimande as Benny
Image by Val Adamson

Sometimes you ask for a challenge, not knowing whether will you be able to handle!!!

Two months back, oh wait it might be three months back, well it  really does not matter.  What matters is what actually happened. I always believed that if it’s mine, then it’s mine.  If the universe has granted  it for me, then with no doubt it will be mine. Maybe some bumps there and there and loop holes some where there. But it  is yours for the taking, ready and waiting.

I had had auditioned for a particular show, out of Durban, it turned out that the director shows interest in working with me but still I had to follow the right protocol to see if I fit in  what she is looking for.  I was excited about the idea of working with a female director and  I was fed up  with musicals.  I wanted to be the lead in a drama. I wanted to experience other energies, how other directors work. I really hoped that I would get that role, I thought It was perfect.  Perfect for my needs. I waited for a good three weeks just to find out that I didn’t get it.

(Breathe in and breathe out)

At least she called to let me know,  I appreciate that.

I called out to the universe that I am desperately in need of a challenging piece of theatre by a woman, written by a woman… ok  maybe I didn’t say written by a woman but I remember I mentioned to the universe that I  want to be challenged.

You know when you asked for something and you don’t know the extensiveness of what you may be asking whether will you handle it or not. Actually when you ask you don’t think about the handling period. I wanted to be granted an opportunity to be swallowed so much by the process and lose and find my self. And then I always said I wish I could get a call just to be asked, if I was available. fast track two months later.

I got a call and I was asked  if I was available… You can imagine how I am that moment…

I am hoping that I am!

Because this person  who just called me has been part of my dreams, anything he touches turns to gold and I am craving for my CV  to have his name….

To be honest  during the phone call I didn’t hear a word he said, I was like he called!! Finally he called!!! Yay! he called me !!! and he wants to work with me !! that means something right.

Lets get down to the crux of it all.

With Isambulo1 was a rollercoaster of finding my self, talking and assuring me…I have never been challenged like that… I cried almost every night I had panic attacks… physical panic attacks! I had to let go of what I know as an actor or what I  have leant to master. what I relied on, my gimmicks, my actor’s  fall on plan. But I was also confused at the fact that why am I not humbling my self to the experience. I was confused because this is what I wanted the universe gave this role to me…. therefore the challenge should not scare me, I should embrace it.

The great thing  about this experience was that, our director was there to help us not to drown, she threw us into the ocean knowing we will learn new ways of paddling and swimming . The only she asked us was to humble ourselves to the newness. No matter how deep we went, she was always there.  Truth of the matter; It has been such  a while since I have  been on stage, I was scared wondering if am I still an actor or not. Does my body know? Does the body remember to allow and dive with sharks….

I had a problem with my self…

Three months I had a session with a good friend of mine who is an actor as well. I was telling her how I feel challenged by her when I see her on stage. I didn’t know if my body would remember how to travel… but it did.

And I believe , I had to remind myself to succumb and trust the process. A foreign  process. The newness of the process.

My director held it together and directed me because she knew what she wanted and she did a great job…

I felt like an actor in a great production. I am grateful to the universe for hearing my call.

Now to the next one.

Image by Val Adamson
Mpilo Nzimande as Benny and Philisiwe Twijnstra as Lydia Written and Directed by Ntando Cele Co-Produced by Neil Coppen




an Actor who is NOT an Actress..

Precisely just that… An ACTOR.

Directing or Acting… I never have to choose.  It is a torso between this two great creative elements.

Hey now… wait a minute this is about actor acting not director directing… Please Phili!!!!!

Some people…think of me as…

Well, I would like to think that people know me as an actor especially those whom I went to school with. But there’s this THING called growth which sometimes we love to hate.

At the moment I feel like I hate growth.

Wait… hold your guns boet… don’t go on about directing…

Let me make you see what it’s in my head.  The only reason I went to Drama school was not to be behind the scenes… never I always believed I was an eye to the eye of the audience kinder person.

I loved every role I played in varsity, I was challenged, inspired.

The project cared about one thing, how strong you are as a performer. I think in my second year the change happened the kind of casting that we feared me and my group of friends really took a turn.

Directors prowled for talent. Not beauty.

Well! Bull dog years gone, weg, hambile, hambile…

Huh Great years though. Years that allowed  a thespian be just that a thespian.

Where Menzi Mkhwane could be Coriolanus and Hamlet and Sipho.

Life as an actor for actors was great and lavish at  school. During classes you can dive and explore into a  classical monologue and contemporary monologue. Time was there.. Life is sometimes,  something else.

Dreams were there for us to believe. We believed that they will be realised  quiet easily, i might be far fetching  with this thought. But we believed we can conquer the industry.

Some are conquering, but paying a bigger price.

Fast track to 2017… I was reminded of that life today. I have seen an actor… You know! how it is when you see an actor on stage being an actor…

Nonono Ungadidideki toe… !!!

I mean an actor who dives and dwells in the unknown, an actor that allows the time and space be the world of the character an actor who truly submerges in the hallows and deepness of the world she has created for the character but remembers  the audience.

Remembering an audience is quiet vital in performance. You not acting alone. You have  bodies, you have energies to take in, you have energies from your fellow actor. You have energies from from the set, the lights.

Phew! Acting dense dude. You gatta pour yourself in to pour out…

And this particular actor uses all of that.

It is like I am watching Mcendisi Shebangu.  BUT i am not.

That kind of storytelling is rare. It is not taught in Drama school but experience can make one understand how to breathe like an actor and when to breathe like a character…

When last have you see such AN actor?

Awe ma!! I am having thinking goosebumps already … her name is Mathabo Tlali… Watching  her on stage just does things to me… that… those things….and…and…

She is making me miss  being on stage so much, she challenges me in different ways. She is a beast on stage. I have seen her twice in in different productions gosh what an actor to feed a hungry actor just by watching her…in  “She said She said Womens Theatre 2016” and The Kids of Amandla Street Assijej Cradle of Creativity 2017. She questions your existence as a performer.  It has been a while since I felt the need to be on stage as an actor.

Tjo losisi,  wenza imihlola… and gosh she reminds me of what it means to have great roles, great stories, great directors.

I miss it really. Both as an actor, and as a director,  I miss actors like Mathabo Tlali.  What gives me the masala spice feeling is that, you feel the soul, the passion. She is giving in to give out. An actor who wills that journey is a marvellous beholder.

I remember when I did Mineboy in 2015 Sneddon Theater  one audience member said to me I felt the soul, the passion, the weakness, the goal of the character but mostly I felt you. I did not understand but I guess this what she meant. All the shows she has been are shows I want to be in , stories I want to tell , directors I want to work with. Damn girl she lives my life.

I had to remember why I  was a theatre maker….

Being such great craziness on stage, is good for my soul.


Philisiwe Twijnstra

Review of ‘The Wings Of The Serpent

‘The wings of the serpent’ is so intelligent, so much subtext and truly one of the most relevant scripts we are yet to see on the stage. Ms Twijnstra paints such a visually captivating story; filled with detailed and fully-fledged characters, who are in such conflict with themselves and each other. The tragedy of the narrative is that regardless of the decisions they make, and the paths that they take- they are all victims of circumstance… I cannot wait to see it on stage!!! Mrs. Twijinstra- we thank you and applaud your work!!! The takeover is here!

Review By Philasande Daki

ACTORS FROM LEFT.  Bhekani Shabalala, Mpume Mthombeni, Sbonelo Mgilane.

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