Classic South African play ‘Woza Albert!’ returns to stage to highlight struggles of apartheid

'Woza Albert!' features exceptional performances by actors Hamilton Dhlamini and Thulani Mtsweni.

Woza Albert! is a play that sheds light on the struggles faced by black South Africans during apartheid-era South Africa.

The play, written by South African theatre veterans Dr Mbongeni Ngema, Percy Mtwa, and Barney Simon in 1981, uses a two-hander performance style to delve into the lives of a wide range of characters, highlighting the injustices of the pass laws that restricted movement for black South Africans.

By depicting Jesus Christ’s return to South Africa during apartheid, the production raises questions about how he would have responded to the cruelty of the time.

ALSO READ: Educating people about horrors of apartheid ‘incites violence’, says FF+

Purpose for staging Woza Albert!

In Woza Albert!, audiences are treated to exceptional performances by actors Hamilton Dhlamini and Thulani Mtsweni.

James Ngcobo, artistic director of Joburg City Theatres, expressed his excitement about the purpose behind the show.

“We had a successful term of celebrating Black History Month, and we continue to extend the belt of celebrating the black narrative by staging this iconic play, Woza Albert!.

“We want to replant the nature of literature in schools and impart to our youth the history of South African apartheid and staging iconic plays like Woza Albert! helps us to commemorate our South African playwrights,” said Ngcobo.

Woza Albert! lead actors Hamilton Dhlamini and Thulani Mtsweni on stage. Picture: Supplied.

ALSO READ: ‘Afrikaners are tired of taking the blame,’ says FF+ leader Groenewald

Actors on their roles in Woza Albert!

Dhlamini said there are similarities in South Africa right now to what was happening during apartheid.

“It was important for me to be one of the characters on the show because I wanted to remind our people of where this country comes from.

“There is a lot of mess happening in the country right now and people are waiting for the coming of Morena (Jesus) to see them out of this mess, whereas they should be fighting these struggles themselves, so we need to make sure that young people know the history of this country so they can drive it to the direction it needs to go,” said Dhlamini.

ALSO READ: Here’s how SA’s five post-apartheid presidents fared on strategy

Thulani Mtsweni said Woza Albert! is about hope.

“It was an honour for me to do the play because it has already been done by many legends before me and I felt like I personally needed this play.

“The play was a story about hope above everything because everyone was waiting for Morena (Jesus) to come and save them from what they were going through during the apartheid era and I am pretty sure that the message we aimed to convey through the show today was conveyed,” said Mtsweni.

Woza Albert! is billed to run from 1 to 12 March 2023 at the Joburg Theatre Lesedi Stage.

NOW READ: Racism remains SA’s most stubborn problem, as SAHRC sees spike in complaints

Read more on these topics

apartheid Arts And Books Joburg Theatre theatre

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits