Press: 8th annual 2018 Zabalaza Theatre Festival to showcase some 40 productions by dynamic young theatre-makers

March 9, 2018

The Baxter’s annual Zabalaza Theatre Festival is back from 10 to 17 March 2018, with some fresh and exciting additions and innovations to the programme, and some ground-breaking works by young theatre-makers from all over the Western Cape.


The Baxter Theatre Centre will be buzzing with more than 40 theatre productions and events, featuring close to 150 artists and a line-up which is jam-packed with dynamic and diverse options which caters for all tastes during the week-long eighth annual festival.


The award-winning actor and director Mdu Kweyama has been appointed as curator of this year’s festival and he joins the team which is spearheaded by artistic director Bongile Mantsai along with Zoleka Helesi (co-ordinator), Lauren Hannie (administrator) and Monde Myataza (sales and marketing). Kweyama has a Master’s degree from UCT in Directing, is the 2016 Fleur du Cap New Director award-winner and a former Baxter Artist-in-Residence. Some of his work at the Baxter in recent years include Reza de Wet’s Missing and Woza Albert.


With the ongoing support and commitment from the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, as well as Distell and HCI Foundation and, more recently, the City of Cape Town and Pick n Pay, the festival is poised to retain its reputation as the premier event of its kind in South Africa.

Now in its eighth year, the Zabalaza Theatre Festival kicks off with the newly imagined Family Carnival Weekend which takes place all day on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 March. This year’s festival will see all the venues and spaces at the Baxter once again pulsate with vibrant works and fresh new talent and activities for the entire family. These include a jumping castle and face painting for the young ones, food, clothing and accessories stalls and a host of other fun activities over the two days.


There’s comedy, oMpondo Zihlanjiwe, on Saturday, 10 March at 7pm, with 13 stand-up comedians performing in isiXhosa. The show is headlined by Siya Seya and Khanyisa Bunu, with comedians from Polokwane, KwaZulu Natal, Eastern Cape and Cape Town, featuring the future of South African comedy.


The RAW (Real Art Wednesdays) showcase on Sunday 11 March and Friday 16 March will feature singers, bands, dancers, rappers, poets and beatboxers, all taking to the stage to entertain audiences.


Other performances on the weekend line-up include six productions from the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport’s (DCAS) Game Changer and After School Programme with participants from schools in the Overberg, Cape Winelands, Central Karoo and Eden Districts, as well as six productions from the Best of the DCAS Drama Festivals selected from the Cape Winelands and Eden Districts. 

The main festival, with some 28 productions on the line-up, runs from 12 to 16 March with daily shows at 10.30am, 12noon, 2pm, 4pm and 7pm throughout the week. The full programme is available from the Baxter website at These productions were chosen from the four mini festivals which took place over two weekends during February in Khayelitsha, Delft, Athlone and Langa.


The festival will culminate with the award ceremony on the Saturday, 17 March, where awards will be handed out to artists and productions in various categories and the Best of the Zabalaza Festival winner will be announced.


One of this year’s highlights is the introduction of the Baxter’s brand new Platform for Special Talent, made possible through funding from the City of Cape Town. This vital initiative emerged from a need to “bridge the gap” between opportunities for young, new theatre-makers and for well-known established ones. The aim is to develop and sustain theatre in South Africa by identifying talented theatre practitioners and providing them with a platform to improve and expose their artistic portfolio to a greater audience. These artists are creating excellent work and this initiative will provide them with opportunities to enhance their skills through mentorship and immersion in a professional theatrical space, designed to enrich their experience and skills as they build viable careers in the performing and creative arts environments.


Five artists and their productions were identified - they are Chuma Sopotela’s Rest in Love, Thando Mzembe’s Zebra Conspiracy and Bulelani Mabutyana’s Final Chapter. The other two are Lwanda Sindaphi’s KUDU and Nwabisa Plaatjie’s 23 Years, A Month and Seven Days, both which have full runs at the Baxter during March.

Baxter CEO and artistic director Lara Foot has once again introduced the Zabalaza Challenge where she has bought 40 tickets at only R30 each to the performances at this year’s festival and she challenges individuals, businesses and the public to join her. “I would like to invite you to invest in the future of our theatre-makers, by joining me in this challenge,” says Foot. “These tickets will be given to learners who cannot afford to buy any. Furthermore, the takings at the door go straight back to the young artists who are presenting their work at the festival. This money, therefore, goes back into the community so that more plays can be produced by these talented artists.” To join the challenge go to


Continuing its mission of creating further and on-going developmental prospects for young artists, another important addition this year, is a three-year bursary from City Varsity to any of the participants on the main programme and who apply to Zabalaza. The successful recipient will visit the Cape Town campus during 2018 and meet with curriculum advisors to decide on a course of their choice. A one-year internship at The Fugard Theatre has also been made available for a lucky incumbent selected by the Zabalaza team to hone their craft and gain further insight into the operations of the theatre.


“Our gratitude always to our partners, benefactors and supporters, who continue to believe and invest in the work that Zabalaza does,” says festival curator Mdu Kweyama. “We are super excited about the programme and I would like to welcome all the performers and theatre-makers to the 2018 festival. We are especially proud of the new additions to the line-up and, in particular, the opportunities that we are able to present to the artists.”


Tickets cost just R30 for any production, except for the RAW (Real Art Wednesdays) showcases on 11 and 16 March which are R50 and the comedy showcase oMpondo Zihlanjiwe, on Saturday, 10 March at 7pm, which is R80.


Booking for the eighth annual Zabalaza Theatre Festival from 10 to 17 March, is through Webtickets on 086 111 0005, online at or at selected Pick n Pay outlets. Visit the Baxter’s website for the full programme.


For discounted school or group block bookings, fundraisers or charities contact Monde Myataza on 021 680 3980, Sharon Ward on 021 680 3962 or email or Carmen Kearns on 021 680 3993 or email her at



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