Best of Zabalaza: Onweer at the Baxter this May


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Daniels and Mei in Onweer pic by Frank Mukendi.
Daniels and Mei in Onweer pic by Frank Mukendi.

The 2018 Best of Zabalaza Theatre Festival winner, Carlo Daniels’ arresting two-hander Onweer, will take to the stage at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio, for a short season, from 9 to 19 May, at 7.30pm nightly with matinee performances on 12 and 19 May at 3pm and 16 May at 11am.

Written, directed and performed by Daniels, alongside Abigail Mei, this explosive drama, performed in Afrikaans, was selected out of more than 40 productions at the recent eighth Baxter Zabalaza Theatre Festival, held in March, where he also clinched the Best Actor award.

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Zabalaza curator Mdu Kweyama said that Onweer was chosen for its creativity and realness. “While plays with themes of domestic violence are common in local theatre, the high quality of the performance and writing in this particular production, contributed to it being selected as the winner. We felt that it stood out as a play with content that is relevant and vital and needs to be seen by a broader audience.”

Daniels and Mei in Onweer pic by Frank Mukendi.
Daniels and Mei in Onweer pic by Frank Mukendi.

With the high levels of violence against women in South Africa, the timing of Onweer’s staging could not be better planned. It is a physical theatre work about a young woman Tammy (Mei), who lives on the Cape Flats. She is overwhelmed by her abusive father’s (played by Daniels) return after his 10-year prison sentence. His return causes much anxiety and leaves many unanswered questions for the family and the community. Did being incarcerated for a decade make him a better man?

“Onweer was a chance for me to create my own language,” says Daniels. “It was a way for me to communicate my vision as a director. When I wrote this play I’d heard of many cases of rape around me. It motivated me to research the theme and the impact on the victim and the community. Abigail and I developed the piece, first for a competition as a 20-minute play, then as a fully-fledged production for Zabalaza.”

He is a physical theatre-trained actor, singer and theatre-maker, who grew up in Mitchell’s Plain where he started performing on street corners. He later performed at Madame Zingara and had his first big break in David Kramer’s 2011 musical hit production Some Like it Vrot. He went on to star in several other David Kramer productions such as Kat and the Kings, Blood Brothers, Orpheus in Africa, District Six Kanala and Fred Abrahamse’s Robin Hood Canal Walk. Earlier this year he performed alongside David Kramer in Platteland, at the 2018 Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (KKNK). Both artists are currently completing their 2-year, full-time, training and job creation programme at Magnet Theatre.

“Winning the Best of Zabalaza award and realising that we would get a run at the Baxter is a dream come true. Opportunities to have our work produced, staged and funded are few and far between,” explains Daniels. “We have rehearsed this production on open fields, on the deck of the Cape Town station, at the back of theatres and the porches of buildings, so we are elated and look forward to the season.

The Best of Zabalaza continues its tradition of selecting thrilling, trailblazing and real stories of the complex, yet lived experiences of the communities from which they emerge. Onweer is no exception as it reflects on life after prison as well as the relationship between victim and perpetrator.

Zabalaza artistic director Bongile Mantsai said, “We are immensely proud of the standard of all the productions showcased at this year’s festival. It wasn’t easy to choose the Best of Zabalaza, but Onweer was indeed a stand-out production that showcased the incredible talent of Carlo and Abigail, who beautifully and dramatically tackled this difficult subject.”

Previous winners are Thobani Nzuza’s Boy Ntulikazi (2017), Lauren Hannie’s TIP-ex (2016), Paul Noko’s Fruit (2015), The Champion by Khayalethu Anthony (2014), Skierlik by Philip Dikotla (2013), Bulelani Mabutyana’s Worst of Both Worlds and Uhlazo by Loyiso Damoyi (2011).

The Baxter Zabalaza Theatre Festival continues to produce success stories, providing the platform to showcase the talent of young stars who have gone on to grace the world’s stages in a short period, collecting accolades on their journey. Several artists who have come through the festival have become recognised and have carved careers for themselves in the arts, both locally and internationally.

The festival is made possible by the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, the City of Cape Town, HCI Foundation, Distell, Webtickets and Pick n Pay.

Onweer previews on 9 May, opens on 10 May, and runs until 19 May at 7.30pm with matinee performances on 12 and 19 May, at 3pm and on 16 May, at 11am. Tickets are R80 with an age restriction of 14 years.

Booking is through Webtickets, online at, or at selected Pick n Pay stores. For discounted school or group block bookings, fundraisers or charities contact Sharon Ward on 021 680 3962 or e-mail or Carmen Kearns on 021 680 3993 or e-mail her at

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