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HAVE YOU SEEN ZANDILE? (article first published : 2005-09-1)

Gcina Mhlope’s internationally-acclaimed award winning play, Have you Seen Zandile? is currently running at Catalina Theatre on Wilson’s Wharf.

The play is a set-work for drama students in KZN and, having been unable to attend opening night, I took in a schools performance. It’s always good to see a production with the audience for which it is designed and the youngsters knew the work well. They responded with much energy to the dramatised version, often prompting the characters if they mistook a dramatic pause for hesitation!

The play has toured the world to critical acclaim. At the Edinburgh Festival it won the Fringe First Award. A shortened version of the play was performed for BBC Radio Africa Service where it was nominated for a 'Sony Award'.

In 1988 it was directed by Gcina in Chicago with an all-American cast where it won The Joseph Jefferson Award and it has been performed for many years by different casts from high schools in South Africa. With its season in Durban, it has finally made it back to where it all started.

Have you Seen Zandile? is set in 1966 and deals with Zandile (Welile Tembe) who lives with her Gogo (Patti Nokwe) in Durban. She’s very bright, loves school and wants to become a teacher when she grows up. Then a nightmare features a white car which represents terror although she doesn’t know why. The white car becomes a reality when she is kidnapped by her natural mother and taken to live in the rural areas.

Far from her adored grandmother, dressed in a sarong, barefoot and cutting thatch grass she learns to accept a different world in the company of her sharp-tongued mother. Her destiny, it seems, is all planned for her and her embittered mother is determined that she will marry her off to the son of the richest man in the village.

Back home, Gogo lives with her grief and every year makes a beautiful present for her granddaughter which she places in a suitcase, leaving instructions that if Zandile is ever found, she must be given the suitcase. The title makes reference to her anguished appeals to passersby as she shows them a photograph and asks: “Have You Seen Zandile?”

Have you Seen Zandile? is a beautiful piece of theatre, full of humour and energy with some very moving moments. Welile Tembe puts in an excellent performance as Zandile, sustaining credibility as the character goes older and finishing the play with a very touching scene. Her interaction with her beloved Gogo is tangible and their scenes are a delight. Patti Nokwe brings her considerable talents and generous-heartedness to the role although at times I did find her difficult to hear. They are ably supported by the other cast members Bazini Msomi and Nokwazi Shandu.

Have you Seen Zandile? runs nightly at 20h00 and 18h00 on Sunday until September 4. Tickets R60 (R50 pensioners and students) booked through Thandeka or Janice on 031 305 6889. For block booking discounts and charity fundraisers call Glenda on 3057612. – Caroline Smart




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