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The Suit

Press release

Baxter Theatre concludes popular Play>Ground series with Can Themba's The Suit as a modest tribute to Barney Simon

Production: The Suit
Written by Can Themba
Adapted by Barney Simon and Mothobi Mutloatse
Directed by Lara Foot Newton
Starring: Chris Gxalaba, Dumisani Mbebe, Keith Wa-Lehulere, Thandiwe-Naima Profit McLean

Sunday, 6 November at 5 pm, Baxter Sanlam Studio

Celebrated South African author Can Themba's well-known short story The Suit concludes the Baxter Theatre Centre's popular South African season of Play>Ground this Sunday, 6 November, at 5 pm.

It is the Baxter's modest tribute to Barney Simon, one of South Africa's greatest theatre visionaries, commemorating the 10th anniversary of his death. Simon and Mothobi Mutloatse adapted the short story for the stage when it was first performed at the Market Theatre in 1994. It was invited to perform at the 1995 London International Theatre Festival.

Simon co-founded the Market Theatre and Market Theatre Foundation as Artistic Director with Mannie Manim (now Director and CEO of the Baxter Theatre Centre), who was the Managing Director. Barney held this position from its inception in 1976 until his death on 30 June 1995 at the age of 63.

He received many awards for directing, both locally (Vita Awards) and internationally, including Obies (Off-Broadway), The Bay Area Best Director Awards and an Edinburgh Fringe First Award.

With a string of international successes, Woza Albert is generally regarded one of his best-known texts created with the performers and went on to tour internationally for four years with extended seasons in the West End and Off-Broadway. Other texts include Black-Dog! Injemnyama, Born in the RSA, Starbites, Singing the Times, Medea and Eden and Other Places.

Can Themba, a contemporary of literary luminaries Es'kia Mphahlele and Lewis Nkosi, has been described by a New York theatre reviewer as "the Dylan Thomas of South Africa". In the 1950s he won Drum magazine's first short-story contest and was invited to become a full-time writer on the magazine. He later also wrote for The Classic, Africa South and Golden City Post.

In 1966, while he was working as a teacher in Swaziland, his work was banned in South Africa. Only in the 1980s did it become freely available with the publication of two collections, The Will to Die (1972) and The World of Can Themba (1985). He died in Swaziland in 1968.

Director Lara Foot Newton has assembled an impressive cast: Chris Gxalaba (Green Man Flashing, The Suitcase), Dumisani Mbebe (Church Full of Light, Madiba Magic), Keith Wa-Lehulere (Down Adderley Street, Relativity) and Thandiwe-Naima Profit McLean (UCT productions of Hamlet, Just People).

Foot Newton, resident director and dramaturg at the Baxter Theatre Centre, is the recipient of the prestigious 2004 Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative Award for theatre, under the guidance of British theatre titan, Sir Peter Hall. Barney Simon was her first mentor during her tenure at the Market Theatre. She has directed more than 30 productions, 23 of which have been new South African works, including a staging of Zakes Mda's novel Ways of Dying (2000), and her award-winning own creation, Tshepang. More recently the latter was performed in Australia and at the Dublin Theatre Festival in Ireland and was also released as a main circuit minifilm entitled And There In The Dust in October. The contemporary classics she has directed are Waiting for Godot (2002), A Streetcar Named Desire (2002) and Hear and Now (2005).

"The Suit is filled with laughter and a brand of humour that transcends boundaries," says Foot Newton. "It is a stunning blend of character portraits, storytelling, mime and even song and dance woven in a tale of love, betrayal and revenge."

With only one performance, seating is limited and tickets are just R15 per performance. Book now through Computicket, or call Sharon on 021-6803962, or purchase tickets at the door before the performance on Sunday.

Play>Ground is a series of rehearsed play readings which provides a space for actors, directors and audiences to experience the very best of both local and international scripts performed by the cream of South African actors. Discussions about all the works after the performances are welcomed, stimulating cultural debate and encouraging audiences to develop their critical theatre awareness.

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LitNet: 04 November 2005

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