The play, Boy Ntulikazi, took the Best of Zabalaza Theatre Festival accolade earlier this year, and is currently showing at the Baxter Theatre until Saturday, 13 May 2017. Written by Thobani Nzuza and Kagiso Tsimakwane, this very poignant and physical one-hander, with live guitarist accompaniment, sees Nzuza take to the stage as performer too. A very dynamic and motivated young creative, he shares a bit about himself and this play, which delves deeply into the challenges that determine the way individuals reflect on the world around them.
Nzuza’s is living proof of the power of theatre should not be underestimated, it can change lives, and even careers. “I saw my first production in 2009 and immediately knew I would fit into the world of theatre”, Nzuza shares. “It changed my idea of life because growing up in a township exposed me to many things. When I was younger I looked up to gangsters and what they had, but being exposed to theatre allowed me to focus on what I really wanted in life. It allowed me to focus on my dreams. I think theatre is a reflection of society and I think I would like to be part of correcting the ills of our society through theatre.”
This respect and reverie for the stage reflects in both is off and onstage persona, a true ambassador for theatre for change. “I’m just a young man with many dreams who wants to pursue a career in the Arts", he adds. "On stage I’m an artist, portraying characters that reflect on what I see in society.” Theatre is in fact more than just a career choice for Nzuza, it is a lifestyle, as he believes that “art reflects life as life reflects art. Theatre should be a reflection of society.”
An inspirational young thespian who clearly chases his dreams with much conviction and purpose, it is no surprise that Nzuza embraced the opportunity to be part of the annual Zabalaza Theatre Festival, hosted at the Baxter Theatre, with Boy Ntulikazi impressing audiences. The development impact of this festival, and its capacity to help artists make their mark in the industry, is truly appreciated by Nzuza. “From day one, I got to mix with various artists for all over the country and we were able to network and get to know the other styles of theatre they use. I never thought I would be a published playwright any time soon so winning the festival has brought this dream closer a lot quicker.”
As a production, Boy Ntulikazi takes a physical theatre approach to storytelling; a very definite choice. “I think physical theatre can draw the audience, leaving them energised, leaving them on the edge of their seat, while driving the storyline”, Nzuza reveals. “Physical theatre is also more like a live performance, so using your body and mind sells the idea of live performance.”
This all makes physical theatre a very powerful medium for social commentary, he agrees, as performers get the opportunity to truly engage with the audience. “You cannot cheat a theatre audience, so they are able to experience every emotion in the performance, so theatre can speak to social issues more than any other medium.” Through this connection, Boy Ntulikazi then addresses the themes of ubuntu, love and pain, allowing audiences to “see the world through the eyes of a child.”
Although Nzuza as an actor appreciates the power of performance to connect with people on an emotional level, he is a director and writer too. Is there any one of these that appeal most to his creative character, one wonders. “I love each of these realms, it’s incredibly difficult to choose one, because when I write I am able to create a concept I’d like to portray. When I direct it I am able to make sure that exactly that concept is portrayed, and when I act I am able to fully immerse myself in what I am trying to bring across.”
Captured in that reflective response, is Nzuza's natural understanding of what the different elements of theatre offers as far as the expression of a vision and the process of bringing it to life onstage. Such a mind has the potential to greatly influence young creative voices, as they following in his theatrical footsteps. He also has a clear message he would like them to take from his journey so far and beyond… “If you can dream it you can make it. If it’s in your heart you can achieve it. You will be amazed at what you can do with love.”
You can see Thobani Nzuza in Boy Ntulikazi at the Baxter Theatre until 13 May 2017. It aims to show audiences that with decisions taken in life, comes great responsibility. Indiscretions by parents can lead to abandonment of children who, despite the odds, will survive. Imagine a world filled with ubuntu and caring for generation to come. Tickets are available at Computicket.