Shack theatre makes a name for itself

Wallacedene's shack theatre.

Actors from Wallacedene’s shack theatres are making a name for themselves at the Baxter’s annual Zabalaza Theatre Festival.

The ninth Zabalaza festival started on Friday March 8 and runs until Saturday, March 16.

Performers and theatre makers from around Cape Town get a chance to work with top names in the industry and show what they can do.

Nine production teams from Kraaifontein are among the acts chosen for this year’s festival.

The groups are from Imbiza Theatre, Silumko Theatre Company, Imbono Art Organisation, Kusasa, Ntsika Art Movement, Light of Life Theatre and Hector Pieterson High School.

Some are able to rent a space to rehearse, but Wallacedene has two self-made, corrugated iron shack theatres: the Imbiza Theatre in Phase 2 will be staging Chappies and The Life of Light Theatre in Phase 9 had taken The System to the festival.

Chappies director Nicholate Ngongoshe, of Bloekombos, said the production was about the challenges actors faced.

“Many actors think that the industry is glitz and glam. Sometimes it is, but the competition is real and people will try every avenue to get to the top.”

Sonwabo Mphandle plays the part of a director who makes empty promises to would-be actresses to get them to have sex with him.

He said: “It was a hard role for me because I am not like this, but I researched my character and watched movies that involved players.”

Mthobisi Mpandle is the founder of The Life of Light Theatre and director of The System. He has been directing and teaching drama since he finished school at the Hector Pieterson High School six years ago.

He does not charge for his classes because he simply enjoys working with the youth.

He said despite rehearsing in a shack, having no lighting and sound like any other theatre, he believed that those coming from Light of Life are good actors.

Wendy Mrali plays two roles in The System, and the first, she said, was much like her life: being raised in a shack, having no money to study further as a corrupt government ignores communities and fails to invest in the youth.She said the play touched on politics and how people in informal communities struggled to live with the little they had.

In her second role, she is Madam Speaker of Parliament.

“The switch in my roles was quite challenging because my first role I could relate to and my second as Madam Speaker I had to do lots of research and rehearse during my free time,” she said.

Baxter CEO and artistic director Lara Foot encouraged the public to buy tickets at R30 each and, if they could, buy one for someone who couldn’t afford one. She also challenged businesses to buy tickets in bulk for youth in less fortunate communities.

“Not only will these tickets be given to learners or communities who cannot afford to purchase them, the door takings from each show will go straight back the groups or artists, which, in turn, means more plays by more talented artists.”

The festival will close with an awards ceremony on Saturday March 16. The Best of the Zabalaza Theatre Festival winner will be announced, and the production will receive a two-week run at the Baxter in May.

Tickets are available at or at Pick * Pay outlets. Visit for the full festival programme.

For discounted school or group block bookings, fund-raisers or charities contact Monde Myataza at 021 680 3980, Sharon Ward at 021 680 3962 or email

Previous articleMissing people
Next articleLatin dance