Gontse Ntshegang retells history in The Parrot Woman show

Actor goes back to theatre after a five-year break

TV and film actor Gontse has it all - beauty, grace, education and a good career.
TV and film actor Gontse has it all - beauty, grace, education and a good career.
Image: Supplied

Actress Gontse Ntshegang returns to theatre after a five-year hiatus focusing on TV and film.

Ntshegang is part of The Parrot Woman which opened at the Market Theatre in Joburg last month with positive reviews. 

The story of The Parrot Woman is one of those shows that open old scars and taking one to the dark days of segregation because of its subject matter. The story is set against the harsh backdrop of the Anglo-Boer War of the previous century. While many African countries experienced slavery, South Africans were incarcerated in concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer War, which started in 1899 and lasted until 1902.

Ntshegang, one of the notable products of National School of the Arts, plays the role of Christine, a woman who was transferred to a concentration camp where she was held captive in a cage and guarded by the unwilling British soldier who seeks the truth surrounding the murders in a game of ritual and escapism. The enthusiastic Soweto-born actress is excited to be part of a powerful story that relates SA history.  

“I love this show because it deals with issues of land and identity. It is important and I love history. We don’t know things that are truthful because our history was distorted. So, we never know what is really true and what is not. So this is important for me.

“As much as we believe that there was no slavery in SA, it did happen. People lost everything they owned and were forced to work before they could earn. Those issues are very important to me.”

TV and film actor Gontse appearing in a theatre show The Parrot Woman at Market Theatre in Newtown.
TV and film actor Gontse appearing in a theatre show The Parrot Woman at Market Theatre in Newtown.
Image: Suzy Bernstein

Ntshegang believes that the story is a wake-up call to black people because what happened during Anglo-Boer War still happens today. The 39-year-old says the story deals with identity, human interaction and war.

“The story shows how people were forced to do something against their will because of Anglo-Boer War. So it goes back to the land issue. It was Boers fighting for the land which they did not own. They end up taking our own people and enslaving them in their own land. We still need to distribute the land to the rightful owners. And we still need to tell the whole truth about people who died in those concentration camps. The show is trying to make people aware that we keep making the same mistakes and expecting different results.”

The Parrot Woman has been given a month-long season and the show has been taxing to the actress physically, mentally and emotionally. Ntshegang, who is known for her role as Keketso Khoza in Rhythm City, narrate the story sitting in a steel cage placed right at the centre of theatre. The whole exercise hurts her knees but she enjoys everything that comes with it.  

“The role is a work on its own and it takes a lot to carry the story while making sure that you come out as truthful as possible. It really affects me as a woman when I think that a body of a black woman was a threat then and it is still the case even now. The issue of gender-based violence, femicide and trafficking of women seem to be a proof of that. But what it makes it challenging is that I have to go to the psychology of what it was like to be a woman at the time and deal with traumatic experiences that women experienced at the time.”

The outspoken Ntshegang last appeared in a theatre production in 2016 in Six Characters in Search of an Author staged at Market Theatre. She returns to stage acting to play a lead role alongside talented actor Andre Lotter, who plays the role of Venter. Trained in stage and at Wits University, Ntshegang has been missing being in front of live audience.

“I missed theatre so much. It came at a time when I was waiting for something that would challenge me and  take me out of my comfort zone. I wanted something that will take me from the celebrity mentality and make me feel like a normal person again.

“I've been doing this for a very long time and theatre is something that is a starting point for me. You can go anywhere but you will always have to come back to it because it will refine your art.”

The theatre show is not only the thing that makes Ntshegang happy these days. Her other show The Brave Ones, that was shot last year, is set to premiere in Netflix in September 16. She stars alongside Sthandile Nkosi, Nomalanga Nkosi, Bonko Khoza, Keke Mphuthi and Tony Kgoroge among others. The story is about an almighty goddess reincarnated as a young woman and she must harness her divine powers to avenge her sister's death and protect her family from destruction.

Despite having it all – beauty, education and a good career – Ntshegang remains grounded. With vast acting experience, she has appeared in most of the local soapies, drama series and telenovelas. She also holds a BA in dramatic arts from Wits University.

The actor has been on shows like Scandal!, Rhythm City, Zabalaza, Inkaba, Soul City, The Queen, Ashes to Ashes, Bone of My Bones, Hillside, Isidingo, Inkaba, Mfolozi Street and many more.

Catch The Parrot Woman at the Market Theatre until September 24.

Fact File

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Favourite actor: Jack Nicholson

Favourite TV show: Chopped

Favourite film: The Favourite

Favourite music: Jazz, kwaito, R&B

Favourite food: Ting

Favourite saying: Be kind, be humble

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