Fresh, innovative theatre at Zabalaza festival

Snalo Ndzunga, Luyanda Nodilinga and Mthobisi Mpandle in a scene from Back to Ashes at last year’s Zabalaza Theatre Festival. PICTURE: Imameleng Masitha

The sounds of dance, drama, music and poetry will reverberate through the Baxter, from Friday March 24 to Saturday April 1, when the annual Zabalaza Theatre Festival will showcase 37 productions.

Now in its 13th year, this year’s festival is the product of the hybrid mentorship programmes launched during the Covid-19 lockdown for writers and directors. The main festival programme includes themes of tradition, culture and identity.

A family day will take place on Saturday March 25 with food and market stalls, a jumping castle, and a children’s theatre programme that will run from 9.45am to noon.

This year, the festival will pay tribute to writer, actor, director and mentor, Khayalethu Anthony, who passed away in September 2022. A special screening of his award-winning production, The Champion, will be shown on Saturday at 5pm. Anthony’s work won the Best of Zabalaza award in 2013 and was published by Junket Publishers in 2014. The Champion also won the Fresh Award for Writing in the 2017 Cape Town Fringe Festival. All proceeds from the screening of this award-winning production will go to Khayalethu’s family.

For adult audiences, the Saturday evening offers a selection of performance experiences. An eclectic and innovative poetry performance takes place in the Baxter Garden at 6pm and RAW (Real Art Wednesdays) return to the line-up, with a platform for performers, in the Concert Hall, at 7pm. On Sunday March 26, there’s afternoon comedy at 3pm, in the Concert Hall featuring Choice Mtshixa, Kate Pinchuck, Altaaf Sayed, Ayabona Kene, Dylan Mccabe and Sivuyile Dunjwa.

The 37 productions on the main festival, take place from Monday March 27 to Friday March 31, with performances at 9.45am, 11am, noon and 7pm daily.

The full Zabalaza Theatre Festival programme can be found at Tickets to the main festival are R30 each or R45 for two shows for schools and organisations only. Book through Webticket or at Pick n Pay stores.

Schools and organisations with group bookings have the option of affordable transportation offered by Golden Arrow Bus services, who support the festival yearly, at R5 a person, for groups of more than 40, with a strict maximum of 60 people per bus. For school or group bookings, fundraisers or charities contact Carmen Kearns on 021 680 3993 or email her at