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THERE is no shortage of first-class action on the stage to keep Joburgers distracted from the finger-numbing cold of a Highveld winter, so while the frost strips the leaves off the trees, the Market Theatre will offer three productions to sustain residents until the first shoots of spring appear.

Bra B Ngwenya belts out groovey tunes in Kwela BafanaBra B Ngwenya belts out groovey tunes in Kwela BafanaOn the bill are Kwela Bafana+, The Brothers Size and Little Foot, all of which pledge only the finest in local ingredients.

Kwela Bafana+ transports audiences into the heart of township culture – a shebeen – when it was at its most vibrant, the 1950s.It had a stellar run in Joburg in 2011, with sold-out performances at the Victory Theatre, and is back by popular demand.

It is a musical extravaganza that brings to life the jaunty tunes of a style of music that has come to define life under the apartheid cloud. The theatre says: “To survive these adverse times, music became an escape and, although it was often uplifting, the undertones of tragedy and fear were always evident.”

Defined by the sound of the penny whistle or kwela, the music uses its distinctive flavour to draw audiences back to that era. It follows Bra B Ngwenya through his musical journey with the Kwela Bafana Band.

It is directed by Sibikwa Arts Centre founders Phyllis Klotz and Smal Ndaba and choreographed by internationally recognised Todd Twala, with musical direction by Themba Mkhize, who composed and arranged the music for the 2010 football World Cup.

The month-long run of the show will end on 24 June. Shows from Tuesday to Saturday take place at 8pm, while the curtain rises on the Sunday show at 3pm. Prices vary according to the day, but range from R75 to R160. Discounts are available for block booking, pupils, students and pensioners. For more information, you can visit the Market Theatre website.

The Brothers Size looks at West African mythology, ritual and brotherly love through brothers Ogun and Oshoosi Size and Oshoosi’s friend from prison, Elegba. All these characters are named after Yoruba gods, with Ogun named after the spirit of iron and labour; Oshoosi after the spirit of the forest and a wanderer; and Elegba named after the spirit of chaos and the god of the crossroads who is the go-between between this world and the world beyond.

The Brothers Size examines West African mythology (Photo: T. Charles Erickson)The Brothers Size examines West African mythology (Photo: T. Charles Erickson)Poetry, music, dance and West African mythology carry the story forward through a theme of the need and desire to belong. It is based on the play written by Tarell Alvin McCraney and directed by the renowned artistic director of Syracuse Stage in New York, Tim Bond. Joshua Elijah Reese plays Ogun, Roderick Covington plays Oshoosi and Sam Encarnación plays Elegba.

The Brothers Size runs from 14 June to 1 July on the Barney Simon stage, and tickets range from R75 to R150. Shows from Tuesday to Saturday are at 8.15pm and Sunday shows are at 3.15pm. Children under the age of 14 are not allowed into the play as it contains strong language and adult content.

Craig Higginson’s Little Foot will round up the winter productions at the Market. It is particularly impressive for the theatre complex to host this play as it was commissioned by the National Theatre in London for the 2012 Connections Festival. Higginson is one of just 10 writers from around the globe participating in the festival, and the play will be performed at the National Theatre before the Olympics in that city.

London’s National Theatre has agreed that the Market, in association with the National Arts Festival hosted in Grahamstown in July, can come up with a production of their own, which will act as an extended version of the original.

“This powerful and poetic new South African play is situated on a farm in the Cradle of Humankind, where much of the world’s pre-human remains have been found,” says Lusanda Zokufa from the Market Theatre Foundation.

“It takes the audience down into the vast network of caves where the three-million-year-old hominin Little Foot was discovered. Out of sheer coincidence, the production will be released at the same time that Little Foot’s remains will finally be freed from the rock.”

Little FootIts point of departure is the reunion of university students on New Year’s Eve. A practical joke seemingly goes awry, and as the students go deeper into the caves the audience goes deeper into their psyches. Ancient hominins emerge from the cave walls, and the play climaxes with the coming together of ancient and contemporary identities.

Both Greek and South African mythologies are used as a springboard to explore modern relationships. “Not only does the audience come to a deeper understanding of their common ancestry, but the play powerfully illustrates how the best and the worst of us has its roots in the ancient past, and how these two capacities are carried through into our contemporary democracy,” Zokufa says.

“In both content and form, this promises to be a unique piece of storytelling that will redefine the boundaries of contemporary South African theatre.”

It is directed by Malcolm Purkey, who has collaborated with Higginson on plays originally produced by the Market Theatre, Dream of the Dog and The Girl in the Yellow Dress, and Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year winner Neil Coppen contributed his skills as designer.

Little Foot kicks off on 13 July and runs until 19 August on the main stage. From Tuesdays to Saturdays, shows are at 8.10pm, while on Sundays they are at 3pm. Tickets for Tuesday performances are on special at R75, and there are discounts for block bookings.

For more information, you can phone the Market Theatre on 011 832 1641.

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