Amaza set for Artscape Theatre

In the third and final instalment of the CapeTowner’s features on the Grades 11 and 12 setworks being staged at the Artscape Theatre, we speak to Thokozile Ntshinga, director of the Xhosa production, Amaza.

Directing the Xhosa production, which features no less than 17 cast members, Ms Ntshinga concedes, came with its challenges.

“Finding isiXhosa language speakers was a challenge. Our children grow up attending mixed language schools, and few parents insist on speaking their home language to them at home.

“As the director, I do not compromise on this – I insist on casting actors that speak isiXhosa fluently,” says Ms Ntshinga.

Set in a rural village in the Eastern Cape, Amaza tells the story of a police detective who is stationed in Port Elizabeth and is investigating a personal matter. The case takes him back to the village where he and the woman he married came from. His visit there coincides with the double funeral of a couple that were mysteriously murdered in Johannesburg.

According the media release, “adultery, deceit and lies are just some of the ingredients of this intriguing tale”.

Given her zero-compromise approach to staying as true to her home language – and the production’s storyline – as possible, it is hardly surprising that Ms Ntshinga, commenting on why she chose to direct this production, says: “I am passionate about isiXhosa as my first language. I have always loved the challenge of adapting a novel, drama – or any other text, really – into a stage production. I was invited to do this at Artscape and I decided to take on the challenge.”

As to what about the story and its stage version makes it unique, Ms Ntshinga says: “It is a drama written for reading and it is in the isiXhosa language. I love the fact that this play brings the language to the people and also encourages young people to enjoy their home language.

“Also,” she adds, “the story has many lessons. It speaks of intrigue, cheating, adultery, lies, deceit and all the elements that make lives either unbearable or great. It is very relevant for young people today.”

Endorsed by the Western Cape Education Department, Amaza enjoys the support of the HCI Foundation, the corporate social investment arm of HCI, a black empowerment investment company which has its origins in the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union.

The production also forms part of the theatre’s educational youth development programme, which “aims to promote social cohesion, good citizenship and empowerment through the arts”.

Says Ms Ntshinga: “In staging these setworks, Artscape embarked not only on a mammoth task, but also a very challenging journey: to be part of the education system. As such, the theatre is part of entertainment and part of education. Initiatives such as these make learning more comfortable and appealing to young people. Using theatre as a tool to pass on messages is, to me, very clever.”

* Amaza runs from Wednesday May 18 to Thursday June 2. Performances start at 10.30am and 2pm. Tickets cost R40. To book, call Sedrico Husselman at 021 410 9927 or email sluproj@artscape.co.za