The world-renowned veteran playwright and director Percy Mtwa is back on the director’s seat to steer his critically acclaimed theatre classic Bopha! which returns to stage at the South African State Theatre (SAST) from 25 May to 13 June 2021. The play, a three hander, will feature actors Bheki Mkhwane, Tshallo Chokwe and Terrence Ngwila.
Written and directed by Mtwa, Bopha! (arrest) is a composite of experimental and conventional drama that examines the dilemma faced by black policemen during apartheid. It tells the story of a black family torn between loyalty to the apartheid police service and solidarity with anti-apartheid activism, where a schoolboy takes refuge into school political activism in an endeavor to protect his police father from harm because of his indifferent enforcement of apartheid laws against his own.
The play premiered at the Market Theatre in September 1985, featuring performers Aubrey Radebe, Aubrey Moalosi, Sidney Khumalo under Mtwa’s direction. Although the premiere was received with rave reviews and great enthusiasm even by some members of black and white policemen, Mtwa says it was however marred by police harassments. “Secret photos of myself were taken by security police; the cast and myself were arrested in roadblocks set up for the purpose; and I got jailed for a traffic fine just hours before I was to catch a flight to an overseas tour,” says Mtwa. The play proceeded to a national and international tour that included Swaziland, Scotland, England, USA, and Australia.
The last time Mtwa directed the Bopha! was in 1987 at the Los Angeles International Festival, where the play became recipient of five Drama Critic Circle Awards for Best Play, Best Director and Best Actor for each of the three actors. In 1993, the play was adapted into a Hollywood film, becoming American filmmaker Morgan Freeman’s directorial debut.
For today’s audiences, Mtwa believes the message in Bopha! is still relevant. “Black people still bear the burden of aggressive policing. The relevance of the play in South Africa today is demonstrated by universally unacceptable incidents like the Marikana shootings and those of many protesting students throughout the country. The story exudes with a pledge for the police to undergo a more and improved police training so they may exercise restraint in the manner that they deal with dissent by black people and rise above the legacy of the apartheid regime in demonstration of the spirit of reconciliation between the police and the communities they serve,” says Mtwa.
It Is not the first time Mtwa is directing work at the State Theatre. In 2006, he was invited to direct Woza Albert! another classic under his belt, which he workshopped with theatre maestro Mbongeni Ngema. The two regrouped for the play’s 40th Anniversary celebration at the State Theatre in 2019. In 2001, Mtwa co-directed The Essence with Sello Maake for the Market Theatre and wrote and directed The Patriot in the same year.
In 1996 Mtwa devised an African Renaissance Poetry Revue titled, The Song Of The Smoke, for FUBA’s 18th anniversary celebrations, which served to inspire former President Mbeki to deliver his African Renaissance speech in Japan in 1997, subsequent to which he was invited to co-author and direct the musical, The African Dream, for SABC as part of the African Renaissance Celebrations where former President Mbeki made his local speech on African Renaissance in 1998.
Tickets: Normal R120
Early bird special: R90 valid from 15 to 30 April.
Bopha tickets can be purchased at Webtickets, available online and at Pick n Pay stores nationwide.
For group bookings please contact State Theatre’s sales office at 012 392 4000 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.