Best of Zabalaza 2017 winner at the Baxter

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Thobani Nzuza, Nhlanhla Zondi in Boy Ntulikazi. Pic by Sithembele Junior.
Thobani Nzuza, Nhlanhla Zondi in Boy Ntulikazi. Pic by Sithembele Junior.

The play Boy Ntulikazi, the 2017 Baxter Best of Zabalaza winner, is at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town for a short season this May.

The Baxter’s Best of Zabalaza 2017 winner, the riveting one-hander Boy Ntulikazi, from KwaZulu Natal, will be staged for a limited season from 3 to 13 May, in the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio, at 8pm nightly, with matinees Saturday matinees on 6 and 13 May at 2.30pm.

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Written by Thobani Nzuza and Kagiso Tsimakwane, the powerful drama examines the far-reaching implications of decisions taken by individuals and the possible devastating impact those decisions can have on future generations. Nzuza’s finely-crafted physical performance is enhanced by the accompaniment of live music created by Nhlanhla Zondi. Original direction is by Kagiso Tsimakwane, but recently Nzuza has directed himself in the production.

Thobani Nzuza in Boy Ntulikazi. Pic by Sithembele Junior.
Thobani Nzuza in Boy Ntulikazi. Pic by Sithembele Junior.

The Best of Zabalaza continues its tradition of selecting cutting-edge and simple narratives layered with complex threads and with great artistic execution. Boy Ntulikazi is no exception.

Nzuza also received the Best Actor award at the seventh annual Zabalaza Theatre Festival, which was held in March and which showcased some 50 productions from all over the Western Cape and other regions. As part of its commitment to development, the Best of Zabalaza production winner receives a full run and the opportunity to be staged to a wider audience. Boy Ntulikazi is the first Best of Zabalaza winner from KwaZulu Natal.

The play was originally performed at the Isigcawu Festival in Durban where Nzuza received the Best Actor award, followed by the Imbewu Festival, the Durban University of Technology New Playwrights’ Festival, the Uhuru Festival, the 2016 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and, most recently, at the Joburg Theatre.

Ubuntu and care for the well-being of future generations are at the heart of this poignant story where the indiscretions and difficult decisions of parents are pivotal themes in a young man’s journey to find his biological mother. These themes are common in South Africa today and it opens up a door to a very familiar subject – the subject of silence, when so many ill cycles keep on happening over and over again.

A 14-year-old girl living with her parents in extreme hardship and poverty falls pregnant and decides to leave her home, fearing that they will not accept her child. She gives birth to a healthy baby boy. Scared, agitated and naïve, she has no one to turn to, so she goes to the nearby river and places the baby on a rock at the river bank, hoping that the strong winds of July (Ntulikazi) will push the baby into the river. She leaves the baby on the rock and walks away. Years later the child has become a young man, questioning his own identity in an effort to understand, so he sets out in search of his mother, but with devastating consequences.

“I am really very happy that my work will be seen by a new and different audience,” says Nzuza. “My main aim of coming to the Zabalaza Theatre Festival was to share my story and to learn from others, not expecting to win two awards. I also never really thought that at this age I will be a published playwright. It’s an honour and I am thankful to the Baxter and Zabalaza. To have a full season of the play was always a dream of mine and this has now come true. What is most surprising is this has been achieved in a different province, far away from home.”

Twenty-four-year old Thobani Nzuza was born in uMlazi Township in KwaZulu Natal. In 2010 he started his training as a dancer, singer and actor at the local Buhle Bo uMlazi Community Arts Centre. In May, while performing his production of Boy Ntulikazi at the Baxter, he will graduate with his National Diploma in Drama and Production Studies from the Durban University of Technology (DUT), where he has performed in many productions.

In 2014 he wrote and directed the play Shintsha Guluva for the Isigcawu Festival 2014 and received the Best Director award; in 2015 he performed in Menzi Mkhwane’s Secret Valley of the Great Kings and was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at Durban Mercury Theatre Awards; and that same year he received the Best Actor award for Boy Ntulikazi at the Isigcawu. Last year Thobani was one of the students who represented Africa at the Shakespeare Festival in Germany, performing in Much Ado about Nothing, directed by Professor Debbie Lutge.

Previous Best of Zabalaza winners are Lauren Hannies’ TIP-ex (2016), Fruit by Paul Noko (2015), The Champion by Khayalethu Anthony (2014), Skierlik by Phillip Dikotla (2013), Worst of Both Worlds by Bulelani Mabutyana (2012) and Loysio Damoyi’s Uhlazo (2011).

The Baxter Zabalaza Theatre Festival has produced many success stories and it has given rise to great young stars that have graced the world’s stages in a short period, gathering accolades along the way. Many other artists have become recognised and have managed to carve careers for themselves in the arts, both locally and abroad.

Boy Ntulikazi previews on 3 May, opens on 4 May and runs until 13 May. Tickets are R85 and booking is through Computicket on 0861 915 8000, online at www.computicket.com or at any Shoprite Checkers outlet. For discounted corporate, schools or block-bookings, charities or fundraisers, contact Sharon on 021 680 3962, e-mail sharon.ward@uct.ac.za or Carmen on 021 680 3993, e-mail carmen.kearns@uct.ac.za.

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