Marikana: The Musical has taken centre stage at the 2015 Naledi Theatre awards, bagging the most nominations.
The awards honour and acknowledge excellence in the live theatre industry.
Marikana received 13 nominations:
• Best musical
• Best new South African script (adapted by Aubrey Sekhabi)
• Best director (Aubrey Sekhabi)
• Best theatre design (Wilhelm Disbergen)
• Best costume design (Irene Moheedi Mathe)
• Best sound design (Richard Mitchell)
• Best choreography (Thabo Rapoo)
• Best score/ arrangement/ adaptation (Mpho “McKenzie” Matome and Zakhele Mabena)
• Best musical director (Mpho “McKenzie” Matome)
• Best performance in a musical: male (Meshack Mavus and Aubrey Poo)
• Best performance in a musical: female (Emma Mmekwa)
• Best supporting actress (Siyasanga Catherine Papu)
• Best production of a musical
The musical tells the story of the Marikana massacre on August 16 2012 in the North West province. Miners were killed and some wounded when the police opened fire on them.
When Marikana writer and director Aubrey Sekhabi was asked why he chose to tell the Marikana story through a musical, he responded: “Why not? The music advances the story.”
The production is an adaption of the book We Are Going to Kill Each Other Today: The Marikana Story by Thanduxolo Jika, Sebabatso Mosamo, Leon Sadiki, Athandiwe Saba, Lucas Ledwaba and Felix Dlangamandla. The book looks at the lives of mineworkers, such as the late Mgcineni “Mambush” Noki, and their families, as well as the events leading up to the massacre.
Noki became the face of the strike and was known as the “man in the green blanket” because of the blanket he was often photographed wearing.
Actor Meshack Mavuso, who is nominated for a Naledi award for best performance in the musical, plays the role of Noki in Marikana.
One of the authors, Ledwaba, approached Sekhabi with an idea to write a musical based on the book. Sekhabi describes the book as a “painful” and “scary” read because of the incidents that took place in Marikana.
“The story is very sensitive and emotional. We had to treat it with respect and tread carefully,” says Sekhabi.
There were times when cast members would walk out of rehearsal because “they didn’t want to be seen crying”. The cast features strong actors such as Aubrey Poo, Segomotso Modise, Emma Mmekwa and Jabulani Mthembu to name a few.
“We wanted to inform and capture the mood of our time because as theatre practitioners we have the responsibility to tell our stories,” adds Sekhabi.
The A team
Marikana premiered at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival in July 2014 and, according to Sekhabi, the queue into the theatre extended beyond the entrance doors.
Sekhabi worked with a team that includes musician Mpho “McKenzie” Matome and choreographer and winner of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Dance in 2009, Thabo Rapoo.
Matome, who is popularly known for being a former member of kwaito group Rhythmic Elements, was a rookie at musicals but Sekhabi had confidence in his talent and songwriting abilities. Sekhabi was not disappointed. Both he and Matome earned Naledi nominations.
“The play has amazing, strong music and lyrics. When you listen to the music and remember the story, your eyes just well up with tears,” says Sekhabi.
Local musicians such as Zakes Nkosi, Hugh Masekela and Sello “Chicco” Twala inspired the music. The production’s album is available upon request.
Sekhabi’s dream is to have the production shown all over the country to create conversation around the Marikana tragedy.
The first discussions were held at the South African State Theatre in Tshwane where the production was staged from September to October last year. At the end of the show, the cast and authors of We are Going to Kill Each Other Today sat on stage and answered questions from the audience.
“Working on this production was an important journey for me,” Sekhabi said. “As a black South African writer, I did this story to pause and reflect on our democracy – to mourn. We must mourn the loss of lives at Marikana.”
The Naledi Theatre awards will take place on April 14 at the Lyric Theatre in Gold Reef City, Johannesburg.
The full list of nominees can be seen here.