Whether there is space to stage her plays or not, Slindile Mthembu delivers fascinating and hard-hitting plays.
The playwright and director have won Standard Bank Ovation
Award at the National Arts Festival in Makhandatwice with different shows but has been struggling to break into the limelight theatre spaces since 2016. The hustle for space has forced her to either stage the show in small theatres or turn them into a film to suit cinemas.
Her latest play, Old Soul Waiting, was staged at the National Arts Festival and turned into a film. The play was forecasted at Bioscope Independent Cinema at 44 Stanley on Wednesday. It will further make its way to Redhill Arts Festival on July 30 and 31.
Mthembu’s plays raise awareness on issues of sexual, psychological, emotional, and cultured violence that women face on all different levels (gender, race, and class discrimination) every day. She takes the play to another stage as she explores African spirituality and westernization.
The play is told through a woman’s memory who is referred to in the play as Bongeziwe, played by Mthembu herself.
The play takes the audience to Bongeziwe’s childhood memory of growing up in an orphanage, where she learns that she has an old soul that lives in her. The old soul that lives in her is called Moya and it is played by actress Nhlakanipho Mkongi.
She explains: “Bongeziwe wakes up after days later feeling restrained in a white isolated room, where she sees the old soul (spiritual being), and is examined and treated by a nurse. Through the examination and treatment, Bongeziwe falls in and out of sleep and is visited by her grandmother in her dreams to warn her about this place. Eventually, she listens to the dream and gets out of the place.”
On the issue of lack of space, Mthembu has been knocking on different doors without success for some time. “For the past six months, I have been trying to get a space for the show without success. Sometimes I am told that I can only get the space next year. As a result, I plan to turn the play into an installation and also stage it in gallery spaces. I once staged a show for one day at the Market Theatre Laboratory. Since then it has been a struggle and you have to keep on pushing and fighting.”
Slindile Mthembu is one of those young women who are eager about story telling. She took an interest in drama at high school. She completed her Btech in musical theatre at Tshwane University of Technology in 2015 and has a master’s degree in theatre and performance from University of Witwatersrand.