New Plays From South Africa And Ukraine at Royal Court

Published on Wed 2 Apr 2014
South Africa and Ukraine, two countries currently navigating massive political change, will be centre stage at the Royal Court Theatre this May.


South Africa and Ukraine, two countries currently navigating massive political change, will be centre stage at the Royal Court Theatre this May. Six new plays will be presented as a week of rehearsed readings in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs from 12 to 17 May in New Plays from South Africa: After 20 Years of Democracy and from 22 to 24 May, Maidan: Voices from the Uprising brings protestors’ verbatim testimonies direct from the frontline in Maidan Square, Kiev to London.

New Plays from South Africa is part of a long-term development project between the Royal Court Theatre and the British Council and is part of SA-UK Seasons 2014 & 2015.

Vicky Featherstone, Artistic Director of the Royal Court Theatre said:
“Our six South African readings are a culmination of a year-long project, working with writers from all over South Africa -and alongside our Ukrainian play brought together from testimonies from Maidan Square by Natal’ya Vorozhbit and Andrei Mai over the last three months are an important reminder of the reach of the Royal Court in uncovering voices and stories from all around the world through the International department. Voices which remind us what the Royal Court is for – to ask the questions of our time, to express the ideas of the future and the world we live in through theatre.”

“These pieces offer a unique insight into these places on the cusp of political change and upheaval and we are honoured to offer this platform.”

Graham Sheffield, Director Arts at the British Council, said:

“The British Council is delighted to be working with the Royal Court Theatre to provide a platform for this series of new writing from South Africa. The season sums up the work that the Connect ZA programme is doing to support artistic collaborations and to connect young writers in the UK and South Africa. The process of commissioning and producing these plays is enabling us to work with a wealth of new international theatre talent. We have high hopes for the continuation of our partnership with the Royal Court elsewhere in their international programme, in particular in the Ukraine”

New Plays from South Africa: After 20 Years of Democracy
12-17 May, Jerwood Theatre Upstairs

On the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s inauguration (10 May 1994), the Royal Court will stage a series of readings, offering an insight into South African life today and the urgent concerns of a younger generation two decades after the end of apartheid.

The project is part of the British Council’s Connect ZA programme, a line-up of events will run alongside the week of readings, including a panel discussion, a live poetry evening, featuring top spoken word artists from South Africa and a late night music event.

The Royal Court has been working with a group of 12 young playwrights from across South Africa for a year, as part of the theatre’s international remit, which supports and develops playwrights and theatre artists around the world in 70 countries, in over 40 languages.

Led by British playwrights Leo Butler, Winsome Pinnock and International Director, Elyse Dodgson, these six plays, presented at the Royal Court as works-in-progress, look at absent fathers, political corruption, sexuality, race and religion in contemporary South Africa and the legacy of the new generation of children, growing up as ‘born frees’.

The Royal Court’s relationship with South Africa dates back to 1971 when, during apartheid, a mixed company came to the Royal Court and performed three works by Athol Fugard, including The Island and Sizwe Banze is Dead. On the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s first democratic election, the Royal Court will mark this moment, staging work by South Africa’s new generation of writers.

New Plays from South Africa is presented as part of International Playwrights: A Genesis Foundation Project and this project was undertaken in partnership with the British Council’s Connect ZA programme.

Monday 12 May, 7pm
A New Song
By Napo Masheane
Directed by Richard Twyman

Thokoza is a domestic worker who persuades her sister workers to get involved in the Anti Pass Book campaign of the 1950s. The women whose voices took centre stage in the “struggle” are vividly brought to life in this celebration of political action, song and friendship.

Tuesday 13 May, 7pm
By Neil Coppen
Directed by Simon Godwin

Jacques is an anaesthetist working in a hospital in a rural community. Sizwe is a dancer who is connecting with his ancestors. When they meet for casual sex, memory and tradition collide. A hallucinatory exploration of sexuality, race and religion in contemporary South Africa.

Wednesday 14 May, 7pm
Fana Le Fale (Here and There)
By Omphile Molusi, translated from Setswana by the playwright
Directed by Dawn Walton

Street clown Wilfred and his girlfriend Cindy live in a shack of corrugated iron. Joined by their young relatives, “born frees” with very different dreams, they start a fight against a corrupt housing system to drag themselves out of life in the slums.

Thursday 15 May, 7pm
By Mongiwekaya
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd

Ben and Skinn are out on a joint run. With the weed still burning a hole in their pockets they’re stopped by the police. The drive home from a night out turns into a brutal journey which leaves the accused and his accuser changed forever. A suspense drama that looks at old divisions in a new country.

Friday 16 May, 7pm
All Who Pass
By Amy Jephta

District 6, Cape Town, 1974. The inner-city neighboured is being forcibly cleared by the apartheid regime. 2013, a daughter returns to claim her inheritance and exorcise the ghosts of what took place there. A journey to a landscape of memories past and present.

Friday 16 May, 8.45pm
Performance Poetry from South Africa
Curated by poet, singer, spoken word artist and writer, Leeto Thale, the night includes a guest slot from Thabiso Mohare (aka Afurakan) ‘the crown prince of Johannesburg’s underground slam poetry scene.’
Followed by South African music and DJs in the Royal Court Bar & Kitchen ’til late.

Saturday 17 May, 3pm
The Last MK Fighter
By Simo Majola
directed by Ola Animashawun

Mshiyeni lives with the nightmares of his comrades who were left behind in Angola fighting for South Africa’s freedom. And fights with his son, who blames him for the years he was absent as a father. A heartbreaking story searching for a new understanding of the sacrifices made for one’s country.

Saturday 17 May, 4pm
Panel discussion (Free but ticketed)
New Writing in South Africa, with playwrights Simo Majola, Mongiwekaya, Amy Jephta, Omphile Molusi, Neil Coppen, Napo Masheane, hosted by the Royal Court’s International Director Elyse Dodgson

*Tickets for all readings £8 per reading available at 020 7565 5000*

Maidan: Voices from the Uprising
Verbatim Testimony from Maidan Square
Edited by Natal’ya Vorozhbit and Andrei Mai
Translated by Sasha Dugdale
Directed by Vicky Featherstone
22 – 24 May, Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, 7.45pm

Following the week of readings from South Africa, a new verbatim play Maidan: Voices from the Uprising, directed by Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone, opens in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs for three performances.

Playwright Natal’ya Vorozhbit and director Andrei Mai spent three months on the Maidan, Kiev’s Independence Square, talking to people from all walks of life: students, Cossacks, doctors and volunteers, gathering their testimonies to create a verbatim piece that would tell their story to the world.

Natal’ya Vorozhbit said:

“There were so many writers, musicians, artists and directors all working on the Maidan. The level of involvement was striking. We were performing our duty to society, as well as to art. Our task has been to capture the reality, to challenge stereotypes and open people’s eyes to what is happening in Ukraine, as outside Ukraine there are so many misconceptions.”

Ukraine’s unrest began in November, when President Yanukovych refused to sign a cooperation deal with the EU, choosing instead to create a customs union with Russia. Huge crowds of people took to the Maidan square to protest, with police clashes with protestors escalating throughout December and January. In February, thousands more gathered on the square to demand that the president step down.

A week of bloody protests followed, in which 88 people were killed and hundreds injured when uniformed snipers open fired at demonstrators in the square. In a day of dramatic events, the protestors took control of presidential buildings, as President Yanukovych fled the city and Parliament installed an interim president and an election date set for 25 May.

Natal’ya began her association with the Royal Court Theatre, after attending a workshop in 1999, before attending an international residency. Her play The Khomenko Family Chronicles was produced in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs in 2007.

The Royal Court has worked more widely in Ukraine since May 2011, staging a series of rehearsed readings from Ukraine and Georgia in March 2013, about contemporary life in their countries, bringing together artists working in Georgian, Russian and Ukrainian. Maidan: Voices from the Uprising is presented as part of International Playwrights: A Genesis Foundation Project.


For further information, images or interviews, please contact Anna Evans on 0207 7565 5063 or email [email protected]

For more information about the British Council or Connect ZA, please contact Mary Doherty on 0207 389 3144 or email [email protected]

Notes to Editors:

Listings Information:

International Playwrights: A Genesis Foundation Project with additional support from the British Council
New Plays from South Africa: After 20 Years of Democracy
12-17 May
Mon-Fri, 7pm
Sat 17 Mar, 3pm (followed by panel discussion at 4pm)
Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, SW1W 8AS
Tickets £8 / 020 7565 5000

International Playwrights: A Genesis Foundation Project with additional support from the British Council
Maidan: Voices from the Uprising
Verbatim Testimony from Maidan Square
Edited by Natal’ya Vorozhbit and Andrei Mai
Translated by Sasha Dugdale
22-24 May, 7.45pm
Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, SW1W 8AS
Tickets £8 / 020 7565 5000

International Playwriting at the Royal Court Theatre

Since 1996 the Royal Court Theatre has travelled the world, running long-term play development projects and building relationships between playwrights, directors, actors and translators. Working with playwrights and theatre artists in 70 countries and in 40 languages, the work is supported by the Genesis Foundation and the British Council.

New Plays from South Africa

Neil Coppen (NewFoundLand) works as a writer, director and designer between his home town Durban Kwa- Zulu Natal and the city of Johannesburg. Coppen is artistic director for the company Think Theatre Productions having written, directed and designed several award- winning productions for them. As a playwright and designer Coppen’s works include Suicidal Pigeons, Two …The Beginning of the End (co -written and performed alongside Clare Mortimer). More recent works include Tree Boy, Abnormal Loads and a South African adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. He has won several major awards for his writing, design and direction work including the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Theatre.

Amy Jephta (All Who Pass) is a bilingual Cape Town based playwright, director and columnist who completed her MA in Playwriting at the University of Cape Town. As a director, she was the first national recipient of the Baxter Theatre/TAAC Emerging Theatre Director’s Bursary and is an alumni of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab in New York. As a playwright, her work has been published in South Africa, performed at the Riksteatern in Stockholm and read at the Bush Theatre in London. Amy currently teaches Afrikaans acting to theatre and performance students at the University of Cape Town and is a conference director for the 2015 Women Playwrights International Conference.

Simo Majola (The Last MK Fighter) is a writer, director, actor and poet. His work focuses on social and historical issues and township mythology. Majola has spent all his artistic years as a freelance practitioner, writing for organisations like Oxfam, South African History On-line, Goethe Institute, and Youth Theatre Groups. Majola also serves as a producer for the company he co-founded, EM.KHi Creative Media; he has produced and directed their recent documentary theatre pieces (The Funeral and SilentTalkers/AncientCreatures) and their on-line poetry show BackToTheVerse.

Napo Masheane (A New Song) was born in Soweto, and grew up in Qwaqwa (Free State). She is a writer, director, producer, motivational speaker, facilitator, teacher, poet and acclaimed performer on both international and national stages. Napo is a founding member of Feela Sista! Spoken Word Collective. Her writing credits include: My Bum Is Genetic Deal With It, The Fat Black Women Sing, Mollo, Hair & Comb and Street Lights With Lips. Currently she is studying for her ‘Masters in Creative Writing’ with University Of Rhodes.

Omphile Molusi (Fana Le Fale) is a writer, actor and director. He graduated from the Market Theatre Laboratory. His theatre credits include: Cadre (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Edinburgh Festival, Market Theatre and Grahamstown NAF), Narrative Dreams (Cape Town Obs Family season Fest Director) Balalatladi (Rehearsed reading at Washington DC’s Kennedy Centre) Itsoseng, for which he won a Scotsman Fringe First Award and adapted for BBC Radio, For The Right Reasons , The Sweet Door (Windybrow Theatre), Ljo! (Market Laboratory and Grahamstown National Arts Festival), Pozeng (Market Laboratory) Short Story: Bargain (Published by Penguin). Omphile was the first recipient of the Brett Goldin Bursary at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Mongiwekaya has been involved in theatre for 12 years, in diverse productions ranging from improvisation to opera. These include works by Andrew Buckland, Sylvaner Strike, Handspring Puppet Company, the Market Theatre, and William Kentridge. In 2006 he was invited to be a performer for the renowned Cirque Du Soleil. As a writer, he has developed work in the theatre as well as several hit comedy and soap opera series on the South African screen. In 2013 he wrote and directed an original outdoor puppet production with a cast of over 200 performers. Mongiwekaya is currently an artist in residence with the University of Western Cape and Handspring Puppet Company.

Maidan: Voices from the Uprising

Natal’ya Vorozhbit was born in Kiev in the Ukraine and studied at the Moscow Literary Institute. Two of her plays, Demons and Galka Motalko, have been staged in Moscow and in the National Theatre of Latvia. Galka Motalko has since been adapted for screen and filmed in Moscow. Her play The Grain Store was produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company and directed by Michael Boyd. Natal’ya began her association with the Royal Court Theatre, after attending a Royal Court workshop in 1999. In 2004, the Royal Court presented her short play What Do You Want, A Ukrainian God? as part of the International Season. She attended the international playwright residency in London in 2005 and her play The Khomenko Family Chronicles was produced in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs in 2007.

Andrei Mai is a director from Kherson in the Ukraine. He organises a festival of directing and new writing in his hometown and is active directing Ukraine’s new generation of playwrights.

New Plays from South Africa and Maidan: Voices from the Uprising are presented as part of International Playwrights: A Genesis Foundation Project.

The Genesis Foundation supports the Royal Court’s International Playwrights Programme. It funds the International department’s workshops in diverse countries as well as residencies at the Royal Court that find and develop the next generation of professional playwrights. The Foundation’s involvement extends to productions and rehearsed readings which helps the Royal Court to provide a springboard for young writers to greater public and critical attention. For more information, please visit

New Plays from South Africa is supported by the British Council’s Connect ZA.

Connect ZA is a major new series of cultural exchanges between the UK and South Africa marking 2014 as a celebration of 20 years of democracy in South Africa. From 2013 to 2015, the programme will support cultural connections between young people aged 18-35 in the UK and South Africa with series of arts projects and use digital platforms to build creative networks through live music, film, theatre and the performing arts, visual art and design.

Projects will range from partnerships with arts festivals and workshops to working with artists, writers, filmmakers and designers. Connect ZA aims to reach new and diverse audiences for the arts and stimulate innovation, whilst forging new collaborations with organisations and individuals on both continents.

For more information on the British Council and its work, please visit or

Maidan: Voices from the Uprising is supported by the British Council and its work, please visit

The Royal Court Theatre is supported by Coutts

Coutts is a private bank and a wealth manager with three centuries of experience, providing customised solutions for its clients. These include investment, trust and tax services. Headquartered in London, Coutts is the Wealth division of Royal Bank of Scotland Group, connecting with clients from over 40 offices in key financial centres in the UK, Switzerland, the Middle East and Asia. Coutts has a long history of supporting the arts going back 200 years, having looked after the financial affairs of many famous clients connected with the arts such as Bram Stoker, Charles Dickens and Chopin.  In 1816, Thomas Coutts married Harriot Mellon, a popular actress of her day, and together they became partners of a number of London Theatres, including the Drury Lane and the Royal Opera House.  Coutts has even featured in a number of artistic works including The Gondoliers by Gilbert and Sullivan, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic story Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. In the new millennium, this tradition has continued not only through managing the finances of many of today’s top writers, actors and musicians, but also through our arts sponsorship programme and we are delighted to support The Royal Court and its diverse range of ground-breaking performances. For further information please visit

Royal Court Theatre Innovation Partner