Thembi Mtshali-Jones @the Baxter in A Woman in Waiting

By philip
26 September 2013

Expect theatre at its most powerful when distinguished stage, television and film actress Thembi Mtshali-Jones takes to the Baxter in A Woman in Waiting, created and directed by Yael Farber.

Based on Mtshali-Jones’s own life, A Woman in Waiting, which has won several international awards, is a powerful biographical journey into the dark heart of what life was like for women in apartheid South Africa.

Conceived and written by Farber and Mtshali-Jones, the play is a celebration of this country’s torn past and hopeful future. Through the searing narrative, lullabies, chanting, haunting images and powerful song, it speaks for South African women who have endured life in the shadow of apartheid’s brutal grip and held themselves and their families together against unimaginable odds.

Widely regarded as one of South Africa’s finest actors, Mtshali-Jones delivers a stunning performance and offers an unforgettable theatre experience in a play which is not only about a woman in waiting – it is also a beautiful story of courage and grace.

The Cape Times raved, saying “Mtshali is simply masterful” while The Star said, “A Woman in Waiting is Thembi Mtshali’s painful yet joyous journey towards herself. She takes a whole nation with her.” The (London) Guardian described it as “Theatre at its most powerful, the word catharsis was invented to describe such glorious work” and went further to say “The relish with which the story of her life is told is exhilarating, moving and above all, life affirming.”

In a unique and moving tribute to the South African spirit, Mtshali-Jones leads the audience from her memories of a rural childhood, waiting to see her mother once a year, through the exhilaration of urban chaos and unfolding realisations of the humiliations her mother endures, to her own years as a domestic worker, leaving her baby in order to tend other people’s children as her mother once had to leave her. Her transformation into a performer and singer who would bear witness to these years is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and a celebration of the capacity to “speak or our hearts will burst”.
Director Yael Farber explains, “It was whilst watching the televised Truth and Reconciliation Hearings each Sunday night several years ago that I was first struck by a haunting, silent presence on the periphery of these proceedings: the women – mothers, daughters, wives of those murdered or still missing – who had come to the hearings finally to learn the truth about the deaths of their loved ones. The patience and forbearance of these women struck a deep chord.”

She continues, “Thembi Mtshali-Jones – like most South African women – has a story of waiting to tell. She shared her story with me with courage and honesty – and from her life events we created a piece of theatre which we hope speaks for those who never will.”
Thembi performed in the original hit musical Ipi Tombi some 40 years ago and has since then made numerous appearances on national and international stages, on television and film. She last performed at the Baxter in the hit play Mother to Mother in 2009 and before that in Truth in Translation. On television she is well-known for her roles in Madam & Eve, Sgudi’Snayis, Backstage, Generations, Stokvel, Interrogation Room and Takalani Sesami amongst others.

Most recently Thembi won the Mbokodo Award for theatre which honours women who push boundaries of the genre and create new and exciting performance of high standards.

After its world premier at the National Arts Festival in 1999, A Woman in Waiting went on to play to great acclaim in South Africa and abroad, winning several notable awards which include the Scotsman Fringe First (2000 Edinburgh Festival), the BBC Gold Sony award in 2001 and the Best Actress recognition at the Cathage Festival in Tunisia. The production has been performed in South Africa, across the UK, Tunisia, Canada, the USA, Bermuda, Paris and Azerbaijan.

WHEN & WHERE: A Woman in Waiting, Baxter Golden Arrow Studio, opens on 26 September and runs until 12 October at 8.15pm nightly and the matinee on 28 September is at 2pm.

TICKETS:  from R100 to R150 (and R100 for the Baxter Monday special which includes a meal with the performance). Booking through Computicket or 0861 915 8000or at any Shoprite Checkers outlet.
For discounted group block or school bookings, fundraisers or charities contact Sharon Ward on 021 680 3962 or email sharon.ward@uct.ac.za or Carmen Kearns on 021 680 3993 or email carmen.kearns@uct.ac.za.