In pursuit of reliving the history and legacy of Gibson Kente the man considered the founding father of black township theatre, the man who imparted knowledge to young black actors back in the days.
Durban’s Playhouse Opera theatre revives one of his great works. After an absence of 45 years, Gibson Kente’s musical drama How Long? returns to the South African stage in a prestigious new production.
Linda Bukhosini, the Playhouse Company’s chief executive and artistic director, said the star ensemble would be backed by a six-piece band and 13-piece orchestra, ensuring a musical collaboration among artists of various race groups for a true Africa Month celebration.
Kente wrote the play as a response to pressure from Black Consciousness structures that all cultural work needed to reflect the material conditions of Black people in South Africa. The play was later banned and Kente was imprisoned as a direct result. Part of a trilogy of the only political plays by Kente, the work was written and last performed in 1973 before it was banned.
How Long? is considered to be one of Kente’s most political plays ever and is a melodramatic musical play with political undertones, written in his famous township theatre style. It is based on the death of Khulu, a helpless grandmother, who was removed from her home through brutal police action under apartheid bureaucracy.
Khulu lives on a street where everyone knows everyone, where children play outside together, mothers enjoy some gossip and where fathers all return home at the same time from work. Khulu has a grandson, Afrika. Afrika attends a boarding school in a different province, he returns home to find apartheid police terrorising his street.
Of course you never know something until you truly experience it, and this play takes us back to the days of “dompas”. How people in the townships were terrorised, a part of history we are not saying we must never move on from but we should never forget, as it forged the democracy we have today, the freedom we still fight for.
How Long? is an intriguing play with moving and exhilarating performances with enlightenment of what the struggle for freedom, police brutality and reclaiming land was like back in those days.
With big names like Thembi Mtshali-Jones, a well-known name in the South African acting fraternity, Phindile Gwala also known for her role as Nonny in Muvhango, Khaya Dladla popularly known as G.C from the local soapie Uzalo, Mondli Makhoba and Nqobile Ndlovu.
Also featuring Vusi Majola, and rising young stars-in-the-making, Mduduzi Nombela, Nokubonga Khuzwayo, Nokwanda Khuzwayo, Mlamli Ningiza and Lungelo Ndlovu.
Director Duma Ndlovu is an internationally renowned playwright, director and executive producer, worked hand in hand with renowned South African choreographer Somizi Mhlongo and musical director Phelelani Mnomiya to bring to life this Gibson Kente masterpiece. Ndlovu is also the custodian of the Gibson Kente Foundation.
How Long? Is the best theatrical performance staged in Durban for quite some time.
When I attended the play, the turnout was excellent and everybody was excited. The hype and ambience was linked to the on stage energy and camaraderie from the performers. A musical with fun dance routines, a bit of laughter and tears, and an entertaining set up in true Gibson Kente’s famous township theatre style.
I recommend the play for the young and old, everyone must go see it, get to relive those past years and learn a thing or two about our history.
The play has been running from the 5th of May and the curtain call will be on the 27th May 2018.
By Tinashe Wakapila