The Baxter’s annual Zabalaza Theatre Festival currently on from 10 to 17 March 2018, with some fresh and exciting additions and innovations to the programme, and some ground-breaking works by young theatre-makers from all over the Western Cape.

'The Tie' 2018 Zabalaza Theatre Festival
‘The Tie’

The Baxter Theatre Centre will be buzzing with more than 40 theatre productions and events, featuring close to 150 artists and a line-up which is jam-packed with dynamic and diverse options which caters for all tastes during the week-long eighth annual festival.

The award-winning actor and director Mdu Kweyama has been appointed as curator of this year’s festival and he joins the team which is spearheaded by artistic director Bongile Mantsai along with Zoleka Helesi (co-ordinator), Lauren Hannie (administrator) and Monde Myataza (sales and marketing). Kweyama has a Master’s degree from UCT in directing, is the 2016 Fleur du Cap New Director award-winner and a former Baxter Artist-in-Residence. Some of his work at the Baxter in recent years include Reza de Wet’s Missing and Woza Albert.

With the ongoing support and commitment from the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, as well as Distell and HCI Foundation and, more recently, the City of Cape Town and Pick n Pay, the festival is poised to retain its reputation as the premier event of its kind in South Africa.

Packed programme

The RAW (Real Art Wednesdays) showcase on Friday 16 March will feature singers, bands, dancers, rappers, poets and beatboxers, all taking to the stage to entertain audiences.

Other performances on the weekend line-up include six productions from the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport’s (DCAS) Game Changer and After School Programme with participants from schools in the Overberg, Cape Winelands, Central Karoo and Eden Districts, as well as six productions from the Best of the DCAS Drama Festivals selected from the Cape Winelands and Eden Districts.

'Sleeping with the Enemy'
‘Sleeping with the Enemy’

The main festival, with some 28 productions on the line-up, runs from 12 to 16 March with daily shows at 10.30am, 12 noon, 2pm, 4pm and 7pm throughout the week. The full programme is available from the Baxter website at These productions were chosen from the four mini festivals which took place over two weekends during February in Khayelitsha, Delft, Athlone and Langa.

The festival will culminate with the award ceremony on the Saturday, 17 March, where awards will be handed out to artists and productions in various categories and the Best of the Zabalaza Festival winner will be announced.

One of this year’s highlights is the introduction of the Baxter’s brand new Platform for Special Talent, made possible through funding from the City of Cape Town. This vital initiative emerged from a need to “bridge the gap” between opportunities for young, new theatre-makers and for well-known established ones. The aim is to develop and sustain theatre in South Africa by identifying talented theatre practitioners and providing them with a platform to improve and expose their artistic portfolio to a greater audience. These artists are creating excellent work and this initiative will provide them with opportunities to enhance their skills through mentorship and immersion in a professional theatrical space, designed to enrich their experience and skills as they build viable careers in the performing and creative arts environments.

Five artists and their productions were identified – they are Chuma Sopotela’s Rest in Love, Thando Mzembe’s Zebra Conspiracy and Bulelani Mabutyana’s Final Chapter. The other two are Lwanda Sindaphi’s Kudu and Nwabisa Plaatjie’s 23 Years, A Month and Seven Days, both which have full runs at the Baxter during March.

Zabalaza Challenge

Baxter CEO and artistic director Lara Foot has once again introduced the Zabalaza Challenge where she has bought 40 tickets at only R30 each to the performances at this year’s festival and she challenges individuals, businesses and the public to join her. “I would like to invite you to invest in the future of our theatre-makers, by joining me in this challenge,” says Foot. “These tickets will be given to learners who cannot afford to buy any. Furthermore, the takings at the door go straight back to the young artists who are presenting their work at the festival. This money, therefore, goes back into the community so that more plays can be produced by these talented artists.” To join the challenge go to

'Klippies' 2018 Zabalaza Theatre Festival

Continuing its mission of creating further and on-going developmental prospects for young artists, another important addition this year, is a three-year bursary from City Varsity to any of the participants on the main programme and who apply to Zabalaza. The successful recipient will visit the Cape Town campus during 2018 and meet with curriculum advisors to decide on a course of their choice. A one-year internship at The Fugard Theatre has also been made available for a lucky incumbent selected by the Zabalaza team to hone their craft and gain further insight into the operations of the theatre.

What: 2018 Zabalaza Theatre Festival

Where and when: Baxter Theatre from 10 to 17 March 2017

Programme: Baxter website

Book: Webtickets