Preview: The Zabalaza Theatre Festival 2020

The Zabalaza Theatre Festival celebrates its 10th birthday this year – 2020. Multiple venues will be used in the Baxter complex. The 2020 programme features 42 productions by over 700 theatre-makers. 

Dates: March 7-13, 2020

Tickets: Most tickets are R30 – from Webtickets

Details: Info about the 2020 festival – at end of this article

Mdu Kweyama is again in the seat as artistic director and curator. The festival co-ordinators are Zabalaza veterans, Zoleka Helesi and Bongile Mantsai; with administrative support from Tshegofatso Mabutla.

In a decade the festival has become a vital and dynamic launch pad for new work. In the beginning, the festival was tagged as a “community festival” but its shape has shifted over the years. A component of works come through mini festivals held in various communities Cape Town and surrounds.

Tremendous support and mentorship is offered to the artists who participate in the festival. The March festival is a culmination of months of work and collaboration. The Baxter’s Zabalaza creative team – Kweyama, Helesi and Mantsai – work with artists and provide feedback throughout the year and input how works may be developed. The festival is very much a creative incubator which showcases new work in a professional theatre space.

Mdu Kweyama provides insights into the 2020 Zabalaza:

TheCapeRobyn: Will there be a specific event in which the festival looks back on the last decade?

Mdu Kweyama: At the opening night performance various guest speakers will present their experiences and memories of the festival. There will also be an audio-visual presentation where past participants and winners share their views and hopes for the festival going forward.

TheCapeRobyn:  This year, The Zabalaza will take some shows to communities in Khayelitsha and Kraaifontein. Is this something new?

Mdu Kweyama: We have never taken any productions to communities as part of the main festival so this will be a first. We felt it was necessary and impactful to promote theatre in the communities we hope to reach.

TheCapeRobyn: As always, there is an opening, family weekend?

Mdu Kweyama: We are adding to the family weekend in terms of family entertainment, utilising The Baxter’s brand new garden setting.

[As part of The Rolex Arts Weekend, Rolex sponsored the renovation of the Baxter’s garden space. During the family weekend, bands will be performing in the revamped garden. Stalls will be set up and picnic areas will be available.]

TheCapeRobyn: Is there a focus this year in terms of the programme?

Mdu Kweyama: This year the programme is quite varied. We have productions dealing with issues of GBV, cultural challenges, politics, education and personal growth.

TheCapeRobyn: When the Zabs started it was tagged as a “community festival” and it was very much about “emerging artists.” In recent years, we have seen a blurring of lines – in terms of so called professional and nonprofessional artists and the festival is being increasingly seen as an exciting platform for new work. Can you comment about that please?

Mdu Kweyama: The Zabalaza Theatre Festival is a developmental theatre festival. This is a broad term that would include emerging artists both from communities and educational institutions. Our aim is provide a platform for emerging artists to stage their works in a professional setting.

TheCapeRobyn: Does the process of selection remain the same as previous year’s- mini festivals – with mentoring by the Zabs team?

Mdu Kweyama: Yes it does. Each year the mentors differ slightly so the tone of mentoring changes and that comes through differently each year.

TheCapeRobyn: Anything else to add about the 2020 festival?

Mdu Kweyama: We are excited about this festival and how we can grow and sustain this platform for future emerging artists and we encourage people to be part of this legacy creation platform.

Image credit: Mdu Kweyama – curator and artistic director of The Zabalaza Theatre Festival. Photo: TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.

Zabalaza Theatre Festival 2020– at a glance

The main festival:  March 9 -13. Daily shows at 10am, 11.30am, 4.30pm and 7pm during the week

The Family Carnival Weekend: Saturday, March 7 (10am -10pm) and Sunday, March 8 (10am-3pm).

Gala opening: March 6 – evening– invited audience

Awards: March 14 afternoon -– invited audience

Venues at the Baxter: The Golden Arrow Studio, Masambe, concert hall and main theatre

Languages: Various- includes isiXhosa, isiZulu, English and Afrikaans, isiZulu, English and Afrikaans

Tickets: R30-R100. R30 for most shows. Extra charges apply for events at the Family Carnival Weekend – such as for face-painting and jumping castle. Tickets to RAW on the Saturday evening – March 7 – cost R125

Booking: Webtickets. Direct Baxter booking link:

Zabalaza Challenge: Go to Webtickets and buy tickets at R30 which will be allocated by The Baxter to those who would like to attend the festival but cannot afford to pay for the tickets. This means that the artists benefit as they get revenue and it means that that those who cannot afford to purchase tickets, can enjoy the experience and that the tickets have been paid for in advance.

Theatre/travel advisory – The Zabalaza Theatre Festival

Annual event- March each year

Applications-– See the Baxter website, under Zabalaza tab