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Market Theatre Johannesburg’s UK premiere of The Suitcase

The Market Theatre, Johannesburg
The Market Theatre, Johannesburg

Founded in 1976 by Mannie Manim and the late Barney Simon, the Market Theatre was constructed out of Johannesburg’s Indian Fruit Market – built in 1913. The theatre went on to become internationally renowned as South Africa’s 'Theatre of the Struggle'. It challenged the apartheid regime, armed with little more than the conviction that culture can change society. In providing a voice to the voiceless, the Market Theatre did not forego artistic excellence, but made a point of it. Its twenty-one international and over three hundred South African theatre awards bear eloquent testimony to the courage and artistic quality of its work.

The decision to programme The Suitcase was inspired by Hull Truck Theatre’s visit to South Africa in 2015. Made possible through National Lottery Funding from Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring programme, we now have a unique partnership bringing them to the UK after a five year absence. Opening in Hull, the 2017 UK City of Culture, The Suitcase will visit Newcastle, Derby and Lancaster before closing at the Playhouse in the first week of October.

The Suitcase [Market Theatre, Johannesburg] in rehearsal.
The Suitcase [Market Theatre, Johannesburg] in rehearsal.

Based on a true story, The Suitcase has been nominated in the New Director category in the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards for The Rosalie van der Gucht Prize. Director James Ngcobo saw enormous theatrical potential in this poignant and emotive story and so adapted it for the stage. The production - evocative, visual and moving - encompasses African storytelling and lyrical music at its very best. It’s a story never more relevant to our time, exploring issues of identity, migration, exile and celebration of the human spirit.

The Suitcase cast
The Suitcase cast

The cast includes acclaimed television and stage actor Siyabonga Thwala as Timi Ngobese, (South African TV dramas Isindigo, Rhythm City and Generation), Masasa Mbangeni as Namhla Ngobese (South African Film and Television Awards ‘Best Actress’ for role in TV drama Scandal!; BBC’s Silent Witness), John Lata as Pitso (sketch comedy series Dube on 2 and Dube on 2 – Reloaded; sitcom My Perfect Family), and Desmond Dube as Mlotshwa (United Artists and Lions Gate Films’ Hotel Rwanda; BBC and HBO’s The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.)

The Suitcase [Market Theatre, Johannesburg] in rehearsal.
The Suitcase [Market Theatre, Johannesburg] in rehearsal.

The show features a live score composed by the legendary Hugh Masekela. Musicians include singer Nokukhanya Dlamini (who has worked with some of South Africa’s most prolific artists including Sibongile Khumalo and Gloria Bosman, as well as releasing her own jazz and gospel inspired albums), singer Gugu Shezi (whose career launched on the first season of Idols, and who has since worked with artists such as Hugh Masekela and Mafikizolo), soul singer Nomfundo Sambo, and guitarist Bheki Khoza (who was resident with American jazz musician Larry Ridley).

The Suitcase is at the Playhouse, Wed 4 Oct to Sat 7 Oct 2017

Posted in PLAYHOUSE