Siyabongwa Thwala tells our stories in theatre

Siyabonga Thwala
Siyabonga Thwala

Leading thespian Siyabonga Thwala has gone back to the stage to revive his passion for telling stories.

Every year Thwala makes it a point to balance theatre with TV and is doing a new play The Fisherman,opening at the Market Theatre in Newtown, Johannesburg, on July 12.

The play is adapted from Chigozie Obioma's novel of the same title by Gbolahan Obisesan. The story is told in a two-hander format with Thwala portraying the role of Obembe and Warren Masemola as Ben.

The story is about two brothers who are reunited with one another by the river where they used to fish. As they recall the traumatic events that split them up and recreate these memories, the brothers become all the characters that populated their lives.

In The Fishermen, Obioma seeks to juxtapose biblical and tribal traditions of Igbos in Nigeria.

Thwala says The Fisherman is an African story that many will relate to. "The story is about family challenges and the issue of poverty. The majority of black people have a problem of poverty, which is something that leads to witchcraft, jealousy, and fights among families.

"It is a story of siblings growing together and their politics. It becomes worse, especially if it's boys. They are testing each other's strength and do not know when to stop."

He says though people may understand the show in their own way, it is educative on culture and challenges the religious beliefs which are big in Africa.

Thwala says SA is lagging behind in terms of telling its own stories. He says the country still believes in accommodating people who speak English. His issue is that African stories told in English end up being distorted.

"When you destroy a human being, you take away their power by making them feel their language was not important. Language goes with the culture and a way of living.

"When we tell our stories in English we are not doing justice to them. Sometimes you watch a soapie and you ask yourself where are these people portrayed in the show living?"

Apart from shooting Isibaya, he is also doing another drama he does not want to reveal much on. Thwala feels theatre should be a requirement for all actors.

"Doing theatre is a revival on why you are a storyteller. TV will never give you that opportunity. It is about time and deadlines.

"It is about what people say on Twitter. Due to this young actors focus a lot on social media more than polishing their talent. Theatre gives you the time to drive the emotions and explore. I take it as a detoxer."

The 50-year-old is careful not to play a role the same way in different shows. "I love my job and I treat my work with care and respect. But many people rather worry about being popular on Twitter, the same platform that can drop you and cause depression.

"Artists need to use social media to promote their work not posting that you bought a cup of tea. Because on the day you don't have the money to buy the cup of tea, what are you going to post?"

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