Based on the true story that rocked the nation and shocked the world, Foot’s critically acclaimed Tshepang stars the original cast Mncedisi Shabangu, who reprises his role as narrator and sculptor Simon, and Nonceba Constance Didi who plays Ruth, in this haunting and uplifting masterpiece of redemption. Shabangu, renowned for his unique style of physical theatre received the 2003 Fleur du Cap Best Actor award for his performance.
Lara responded to the desperate situation by starting to write the play in 2002, based on extensive research from media articles and related material and a deeper investigation into both the physical and socio-economic landscape where events such as these occur. Rather than pointing fingers and finding unsubstantiated answers, the play draws the viewer into the complexities and contradictions that surround these events.
While the content of the play is influenced or motivated by factual evidence, the story is purely fictional, weaving together twenty thousand stories – the number of reported child rapes in South Africa per year. Tshepang is ultimately a story of love, forgiveness and coming to terms with a devastation of this magnitude.
She explains, “While searching for meaning in the incomprehensible brutality of this heinous and senseless act of brutality, I wanted the play to bring insight to the audience and, perhaps, in its small way, even offer some sort of healing as well.”
The play has garnered several awards and accolades and has been translated into Zulu, Afrikaans and Croatian. It has been published in English and Zulu and has been performed in prisons and rural settlements throughout South Africa.
Tshepang became an international success as it presented a rare and necessary foray into a world that few have seen before. It draws on a South African style of story-telling, combining striking visual imagery with an African sense of magic realism while cleverly and sensitively layering the story with complex psychological and personal issues. Although the topic may be brutal, the way it is handled is sensitive, even poetic, earning the production praise from audiences and critics around the globe.
The production has played in New York, London, Brisbane, Stockholm and Amsterdam, and toured Germany and Switzerland. The Stage in London described it as a “searing and compassionate, powerfully acted play … a committed act of remembrance”, while the South African Sunday Independent encouraged, “If you only see one show this year, Tshepang demands to be the one … superbly written and performed”, and What’s On, London, said “Deeply moving”.
A literary expert best described it as “a play rich with meanings and subtexts,” and said, “Although an infamous incident in South African society is highlighted in this play, it is done in such a manner that it does have universal effect and resonance.”
The simplicity and symbolism of Gerhard Marx’s award-winning scenography and design creates a visual and evocative backdrop for the story.
Written and directed by Lara Foot
Narrator and sculptor, Simon Mncedisi Shabangu
Ruth Nonceba Constance Didi
Scenography Gerhard Marx
Lighting design Wesley France
Duration: 80 minutes, no interval
Age restriction: PG 15
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Edinburgh Assembly Fringe 2017
“a shattering, beautifully performed play” – The Scotsman
“the sheer grieving power of this text makes it unforgettable, full of insight and horror” – The Scotsman
“an incredible piece of theatre” – British Theatre Guide
“This piece will have you searching for what it means to hold compassion, or even just what most of us consider innate: to be human.” – Broadway Baby
“flawless storytelling” – Broadway Baby
“powerful” – Fest Mag
“If you only see one show this year, Tshepang demands to be the one … superbly written and performed” – Sunday Independent
“… a rich and rewarding theatrical experience …. stunning scenography … I had to wipe away the tears before I could make any critical assessment.” – Pretoria News
“Do go and see it – it’s dynamic theatre” – Radio review (South Africa)
“The acting has a massive sculptural simplicity. That, and Gerhard Marx’s set, with its toy village and basic props, suggests both the earthy vigour of Barney Simon’s Market Theatre and the visionary realistic style of Peter Brook. This is a wonderful debut.” – The Sunday Times
“There’s a richness and subtlety in Lara Foot Newton’s script that has not been seen in South African new writing in recent years.” – Critic’s Choice, Time Out, London
“Deeply moving” – What’s On, London
“… a vivid portrait of a town cut off by poverty from its own heart …a world where powerless people are trying slowly and painfully to take responsibility and learn to love again.” – Guardian
Foot Newton’s text is a subtle, lyrical, haunting and compassionate exploration of the cyclical nature of violence as well as the existential void in which those who live in dire poverty exist.” – The Writing Studio
“Foot Newton’s oeuvre – confronting that which is dark and dangerous within us and around as South Africans – with a poetic eye and mind marks her as one of this country’s bravest and most innovative theatre makers. In its short life, Tshepang has become a theatre classic and is a work that continues to resonate and confront”. – The Writing Studio
“Lara Foot’s Tshepang is riveting theatre”. – Theatre Review
“The fact that Lara Foot, with her powerful team of two actors, succeeds in creating a space that takes you thoughtfully and provocatively into highly emotive terrain, is an amazing theatrical feat. You are drawn into an explosive trauma-field that few would willingly dare to tread.”
– Theatre Review
“Although the subject matter is so awful to contemplate, with the extent of child rape occurring in South Africa and increasing each year, this difficult subject needs to be brought into the open so that it can be considered and discussed. Tshepang does it admirably with its poetic style, metaphor and striking visual imagery and is a very powerful tool against child abuse, deserving all the attention it can get” – Maurice Kort, Artsmart
“This searing and compassionate, powerfully acted play … is a committed act of remembrance.” – The Stage, London
LARA FOOT BIOGRAPHY
Lara Foot is a multi-award-winning playwright, director and producer. She is the CEO and artistic director of the Baxter Theatre Centre at the University of Cape Town. She is a former Rolex protégé to Sir Peter Hall in the prestigious Rolex Mentor and Protégé programme as well as a Sundance Fellow.
Lara completed her BA (Hons) degree at Wits University in 1989 and in 2007 attained her Master’s degree at the University of Cape Town. Lara worked at the Market theatre under the mentorship of the late Barney Simon and held the positions of resident director and associate artistic director of the Market Theatre between 1995 and 2000.
In 2005 she became the Resident Director and Dramaturge at the Baxter Theatre Centre – a post which she held until 2007. In January 2010 she became the first female to be appointed as CEO and Artistic Director of the Baxter.
With a passion for the development of new indigenous work, young writers and directors, she has put most of her energy into helping playwrights and theatre-makers realise their work, having nurtured several dozen new South African plays to their first staging. She has directed over 50 professional productions, 38 of which have been new South African plays.
Last year Lara was named the 2016 Featured Artist at the 43rd National Arts Festival, leading the charge on the Main programme which is made up of 80% of work written, directed, curated or headlined by women. This, two decades after she was selected as the Standard Bank Young Artist for Drama.
With a host of South African theatre accolades to her name, her own hard-hitting plays tackle social issues in South Africa and these have earned her great respect and recognition locally and internationally.
Tshepang: The Third Testament, Karoo Moose, Solomon and Marion, Fishers of Hope and The Inconvenience of Wing are just a few of her plays which have won multiple awards and that have toured internationally with great success.
Fishers of Hope scooped four awards at the Naledi Theatre Awards in Johannesburg, including the coveted Best Production of a Play accolade. The Inconvenience of Wings, earned her the Best Director honour, along with the Best Actress (Jenifer Steyn) and Best Actor (Andrew Buckland) nods at the 2017 Fleur du Cap awards. In April 2017 Karoo Moose won the KKNK awards for Best Director (Lara Foot), Best Actress (Chuma Sopotela) and Best Production.