Delela, a cheeky new South African play on ‘do-gooders behaving badly', comes to the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio, from 6 to 16 September 2023.
• delela (verb): to be disrespectful, cheeky, rude, out of line.
Tiisetso Mashifane wa Noni (best known for the award-winning, Sainthood) writes and directs Delela, a cheeky new South African play on ‘do-gooders behaving badly', at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio, from 6 to 16 September 2023, at 8pm with Saturday matinees at 3pm.
It premiered to standing ovations on the main stage of the 2022 National Arts Festival, Makhanda’s curated programme. Robyn Cohen for The Cape Robyn raved, describing it as “Bridging the arc of history towards justice – Thrilling to see Tiisetso Mashifane wa Noni’s new play, … a deliciously cheeky play with twisty bits and a Shakespearean undertow … a lot of fun and it’s very serious.”
Delela, a word of Nguni origin and which means to be disrespectful, cheeky, rude, out of line, is a production made by a young team of collaborators. The cast is made up of Daniel Barney Newton (Shadowboxing, The Visigoths), Katlego Lebogang (Wounds, Jiva), Frances Sholto-Douglas (The Kissing Booth, Fatal Seduction) and Fadzai Simango (Raised by Wolves, The Lincoln Project). Lighting design is by Andi Colombo and the score composition is by Denise Onen.
The play follows the story of The Strauss-Smith Foundation, one of South Africa’s oldest and wealthiest private charitable foundations, as they embark on an ambitious ‘transformation and diversity’ project. The transformation project, which is managed by the heirs to the Strauss-Smith family fortune (played by Newton and Sholto-Douglas), proves tumultuous when a new diversity hire (Lebogang) challenges the family’s sense of responsibility towards the project and a public relations disaster ensues.
Mashifane wa Noni explains, “In a world where being perceived as a good person is the ultimate social currency, I thought it would be interesting to explore the image washing that giving back/charity work does, especially in a country like South Africa, with its history and the socio-economic legacy it has left behind.”
She continues, “Charity and Aid initiatives do back-breaking work in martyring the effects of horrific legacies and ideologies. On a large scale, look at what image-washing has done for the British Royal Family (because one can ignore the legacies of colonisation and slavery when you’re the patron of hundreds of charities?). On a smaller, more personal scale, if you put in your 67 minutes on Mandela Day, what more do people expect you to do?!”
Initially about gender-based violence, Delela was first developed with a performed reading that was supported by the Baxter Theatre in 2021 and after mulling over the feedback from the reading, Mashifane wa Noni decided to re-write the play with a focus on vanity philanthropy after watching an episode of Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act titled, 'Why Billionaires Won’t Save Us'. In that episode, the stand-up comedian dissects how the ultra-wealthy use philanthropy to distract from the injustices on which they build their fortunes. This new subject matter allowed Mashifane wa Noni to shift the form and genre of the play from a linear play performed as a drama to a satire that is performed in a twisty loop.
Tiisetso strives to make provocative content focused on themes of social politics, history and violence in contemporary South Africa. She is a playwright, theatre maker and producer, who has been described as a “theatre prodigy” in the Cape Times and a “brilliant young mind” by TEDxYouth Cape Town, for her award-winning and critically acclaimed debut play, Sainthood.
She graduated with a BA in Politics and International Studies, Philosophy and Dramatic Arts from Rhodes University and a BA (Hons) in Directing for Stage from the University of Cape Town. In 2021 she received the Canadian-South African (CASA) Playwriting Award for her play, lamb v. slaughterhouse, is an artistic committee member of Theatre Arts, and a Futurelect Fellow (with an interest in education and justice).
Delela runs at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio for a limited season from 6 to 16 September 2023, at 8pm with Saturday matinees at 3pm and booking is through Webtickets online or at Pick n Pay stores.