For the first time ever, the 2019 Best of Zabalaza Theatre Festival season will feature two diverse productions selected from the annual Baxter theatre festival. Die 9de Maand will be staged from 28 May to 1 June at 8.15pm, and Ukuwa Kwe Nkaba from 4 to 8 June 2019 at 7.30pm.

Potent, commanding works

“These productions, in very different ways, present something special and powerful. The staging, the narratives and the performances in each one, are commanding, says Zabalaza Theatre Festival curator Mdu Kwyama. “This made it difficult for the panel of judges, who decided that they were both deserving. We are very excited about the decision, especially since a wider audience would be able to see these works.”

Earl Kruger, Jay-D Sanderson, Zinedine Manus and Yanick Sweers in Die 9De Maand
Earl Kruger, Jay-D Sanderson, Zinedine Manus and Yanick Sweers in Die 9De Maand

Die 9de Maand

Betrayal is the over-arching theme in Die 9de Maand, which means ‘the 9th Month’ and is performed in Afrikaans with an age restriction of 16 years. Four young men share a dark and painful secret. Each one has a story of their own. Each one has been sworn to secrecy. Something happened at an “after-party”, best left buried and forgotten. It was an unspeakable act that muzzled them, but one of them bows under the pressure.

Written and directed by Tyron Zoutman from Lekker Jy Productions, the four-hander stars Earl Kruger, Zinedine Manus, Jay-d Sanderson and Yanick Sweers. Zoutman has consistently participated in the Baxter’s Zabalaza Theatre Festival since 2016 – with great success.

In 2016, he directed and choreographed Our Winds That Heal, which won the Best Ensemble award. The following year, he choreographed, wrote and directed Katrientjie en die Broers (Best Script, Most Promising Actor) and Ungubani Wena (which received eight nominations). In 2018, his production of Kopieskloof was nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress awards. At the 2019 Zabalaza Theatre Festival, Zoutman wrote and directed Menswees (Best Actress), The Vow and Die 9de Maand (Best Ensemble award).

Zoutman has choreographed 11 musicals, which include The Boyfriend, Hair, Evita, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Sarafina, Barnum, Fiddler on the Roof and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Siyabonga Jim in Ukuwa Kwe Nkaba - Zabalaza Theatre Festival 2019. Picture Sithembele Jnr
Siyabonga Jim in Ukuwa Kwe Nkaba. Picture Sithembele Jnr

Ukuwa Kwe Nkaba

Ukuwa Kwe Nkaba, loosely translated, means ‘the cutting or falling of the umbilical cord’. Mthombisi Mpandle, has written and directs an ensemble cast of seven performers, comprising Wendy Mrali, Siyabonga Jim, Yolanda Ntayama, Molupi Lepeli, Zanokhanyo Saliman, Kagiso Ndima and Nomakrestu Xakathugaga.

Through music, movement and drama, the plight of women who are forced to raise their children on their own is tackled. Fathers are absent or have absconded – and in many cases they are around, but refuse to take on the responsibility of parenting. However, when these children grow up and become young adults, they, understandably want to know who their fathers are, what their roots are, in order to complete their own lives. This powerful play calls on mothers to tell their children the truth, no matter how painful.

Ukuwa Kwe Nkaba is performed in isiXhosa with some English and there is an age restriction of 13 years.

Director Mpandle is a co-founder of Kraaifontein-based Light of Life Theatre Organization, which was formed a decade ago, out of a need and a vision to nurture and develop raw talent in the area, through the creative arts. This includes drama, dance, music, poetry and visual arts with the idea of creating opportunities for the immense talent that exist in the community and expose them to broader audiences. Mpandle is a graduate of New Africa Theatre, where he received the coveted Sybil Sands Trophy. He has won many awards over the years including the Zabalaza Theatre Festival Best Director and Most Promising Production awards for Alunamda in 2016.

Dates for these Best of Zabalaza Theatre Festival shows are:

Die 9de Maand runs from 28 May to 1 June at 8.15pm, with matinee performances Thursday 30 and Friday, 31 May and Saturday, 1 June at 3pm.

Ukuwa Kwe Nkaba runs from 4 to 8 June at 7.30pm, with matinees on Wednesday 5 and Thursday, 6 June. There are two matinee performances on Saturday 8 June at 11am and 3pm, with no evening performance on the day.

What: 2019 Best of Zabalaza Theatre Festival season
Baxter tickets: R100, R60 for scholars, students, block-bookings 10 or more
Zabalaza tickets:, 086 111 0005, Pick n Pay
Discounted: School/group block bookings, fundraisers/charities Sharon Ward 021 680 3962,; Carmen Kearns 021 680 3993,