Classic Woza Albert still a hit
WOZA Albert still has pulling power 31 years after it was first staged. This celebrated and much-loved classic asks what would have happened if Jesus Christ (Morena) had come to South Africa during apartheid.
The challenge for the current actors is to portray characters that do not sound like those of the 1980s, and yet not compromise the integrity of the play.
The play this time casts two well-known actors who have confessed that they were once part of the audience when Woza Albert premiered.
Actor Mncedisi Shabangu, who plays Mbongeni, started acting while still a student in KaNyamazane, Mpumalanga, in the 1980s.
"The play has a political message. Some people I have spoken to claim that they have seen it more than three times. As an actor you have to be honest on how you present the play," he said.
Woza Alberthas shifted from being an "apartheid story" to being a prophetic play, said seasoned theatre and television actor Hamilton Dlamini, who plays Percy.
"All the events in the play happened during the apartheid era, yet they are still as relevant today like they were then.
"When you walk in down town Johannesburg, you see vendors selling meat at open spaces and street corners, and those green flies still buzz around.
"Juxtapose that with a drive along William Nicol Drive and tell me what you see. You will see hundreds of people, mostly black men, standing at traffic lights looking for any kind of job," said Dlamini.
Prince Lamla, pictured, who directs the play, said it took him six years to agree to direct this beautifully written play.
"My reluctance to direct the play had to do with the fact that every one seemed to want to direct the play at the time.
"But I realised that the soul of this play is bigger than any actor or director.
"I realised that perhaps we did not do enough to understand the true essence of the play," said Lamla.
The play was written in 1981 by Mbongeni Ngema, Percy Mtwa and Barney Simon.
Woza Albert has over the decades showcased the talents of Tony Kgoroge, Siyabonga Twala, Sello Maake ka Ncube, Mbongeni Ngema and Mtwa, among others.