Whether there is a space to stage her shows or not, independent theatre maker Slindile Mthembu continues to produce compelling and hard-hitting plays.
The playwright and director has won Standard Bank Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival in Makhanda twice with different shows but has been struggling to break into mainstream theatre spaces since 2016. She won in 2016 with Milked Voice and Old Soul Waiting. The struggle for space has forced her to either stage the show in small theatres or convert it into a film to suit cinemas.
Her latest show, Old Soul Waiting, was staged at the National Arts Festival and turned into a film. The play was screened at Bioscope Independent Cinema at 44 Stanley on Wednesday. It will further make its way to Redhill Arts Festival on July 30 and 31.
Mthembu’s plays normally raise awareness on issues of sexual, psychological, emotional and cultured violence that women experience on all three different levels (gender, race, and class discrimination) every day. This time she explores African spirituality versus westernisation.
Through Old Soul Waiting, she explores how ancestral calling is misdiagnosed as a form of mental illness and combines narrative and interpretative dance into a fascinating hybrid experience of what a spiritual awakening possibly looks like in the Western and the spiritual realm.
The story is told through a woman’s memory who is referred in the play as Bongeziwe, played by Mthembu herself. The story takes the audience to Bongeziwe’s childhood memory of growing up in an orphanage, where she discovers that she has an old soul or spiritual being that lives in her. The spiritual being called Moya is played by actress Nhlakanipho Mkongi.