Woza Albert! (“Rise Albert!”) premiered at the Market Theatre in 1981 as a political satire written by Percy Mtwa, Mbongenu Ngema, and Barnet Simon.
Throughout the play you are introduced to various characters – from a vendor, and barber, to a brick maker – all in search of a saviour to answers their prayers, whether most basic needs driven or reflecting a desperate desire for freedom. So when the news of the coming of Morena (Jesus) takes the land by storm, these prayers become hopes that as a “godly” light highlights the evil impact of apartheid in a very tongue in cheek manner, with it all ending with a bang… literally.
This play is as much a relevant masterpiece today, as it was in 1981, and the talented Oarabile Ditsele and Sizwesandile Mnisi take on the various roles with the skill of true theatrical masters deserving of the standing ovation they received on opening night. They had the audience captivated from the moment they brought the rhythm of a nation to the stage with the first scene.
As a protest piece it brilliantly channels and brings together spoken word, physical theatre, dance and song to appeal to the inherent human need of freedom that resides in us all. You can’t sit there, watching Woza Albert! without getting swept up by emotions as you feel the rhythm of the message pulsing through your veins. That is the genius of the Barney Simon type plays, they remain relevant because they speak to our inherent social sense of community and acceptance.
Under the visionary direction of Mdu Kweyama, Ditsele and Mnisi vividly showcases the absurdities of apartheid in a manner that allows the audience to both laugh at the characters’ antics while deeply reflecting the message brought by these ordinary, very identifiable, everyday people.
Delivered with passion and commitment, this ever-relevant play is an absolute theatrical delight to stand witness to, and one that will enrich any theatre lover’s heart, a sentiment also shared by theatre friend Fatima Gabier:
"What a great opening night for Woza Albert! I thoroughly enjoyed it. I will highly recommend everyone to go and see this two man production. I liked the fact that even though we were made aware of the painful and uncomfortable past of apartheid, the performers could still factor in humour and dance to make it light-hearted. A moving tribute in the end to the struggle heroes. #WozaAlbert!"
It truly is a privilege to see Woza Albert! staged at the Baxter Theatre, and I encourage everyone who loves great theatre to buy tickets soonest at Computicket, to see it before run ends 23 April 2016.