Theatre alert: Immersive binaural audio experience with The Kwasha! Theatre Company’s staging of The Empire Builders, by Boris Vian, going out online from Johannesburg, February 2021

What: The Empire Builders by Boris Vian

When: February 2021 – anytime as audio-on-demand
Format: Radio – audio experience- three episodes – 20 min each
Cost: No charge but donations appreciated Viewing platforms: www.empirebuildersinsa.org, IFAS www.ifas.org.za and The Market Theatre www.markettheatre.co.za

Production: The play is being staged by The Kwasha! Theatre Company, with support from The French Institute of South Africa (IFAS), The Market Theatre Lab and the Windybrow Arts Centre.

Listening advisory: Wear headphones to enhance the binaural audio (involving both ears)
Info: Hayleigh Evans hayleighevans@gmail.com or Lusanda Zokufa lusandaz@markettheatre.co.za  

The Empire Builders (Les Bâtisseurs d’Empire) was written by French writer, Boris Vian in 1957 and published 1959. The play which falls under the ambit of Theatre of The Absurd reverberates very much in terms of the strange days that we are navigating in the pandemic and the absurd situations- real and imagined.  The Kwasha! Theatre Company, based at The Market Theatre in Johannesburg performs this play – staged as an audio play. There are three parts- 20 minutes each. No charge to watch but donations appreciated. Tune in anytime – available as audio-on-demand.

Info as supplied:


The Kwasha Theatre Company brings Boris Vian’s The Empire Builders’ to life with an immersive audio experience that will be available for the month of February 2021

In its 3rd year of partnership, the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) and the Market Theatre Lab present a brand new audio experience from Kwasha! Theatre Company…

Made under lockdown restrictions during 2020, and in direct response to pushing the boundaries of how live performers can reach their audiences in the time of Covid-19, the Kwasha! Theatre Company chose to present Boris Vian’s 1959 play as a binaural audio experience for audiences to access from the comfort of their homes.

The binaural experience allows audiences to create the world of the theatre entirely through sound and the vocal delivery of the performers. The audio play was recorded in the Barney Simon Theatre (Market Theatre, Johannesburg) in November 2020, and will be available from February 2021 for audiences to experience in 3 parts/episodes.

Boris Vian’s “The Empire Builders” is an Absurdist tragicomedy based on Vian’s childhood experience of the Nazi occupation, written at a time when French colonialism in African and Asian territories was coming to an end. The play tells the story of a middle-class family who is threatened by an unusual noise forcing the family members to ascend through their apartment building to progressively smaller rooms, leaving behind all the comforts they once enjoyed while maintaining a façade of calm and denial. While the family is constantly on an upward run, their world is increasingly narrowing; floor after floor, members of the family mysteriously leave or vanish. The play addresses themes such as alienation, selfishness, self-deception, pride and stupidity – the incomprehensibility of existence and meaning.  This play effortlessly lends itself to political interpretation and so does South African history which features the absurdity of the human condition at its core.

Other successful production partnerships between IFAS, The Market Theatre Lab and Kwasha! Theatre Company include “The Little Prince” (2018) and “Rhinoceros” (2019).

Project tags: #TheEmpireBuildersSA #MarketLab #LabRats #IFAS


Climbing staircases: Mosie Mamaregane (Mugg) in The Kwasha Theatre Company’s staging of The Empire Builders, by Boris Vian, going out online as an audio play from The Market Theatre Johannesburg, February 2021. No charge. Click in at anytime – audio-on-demand. Production photo © Oscar Gutierrez.

The Empire Builders by Boris Vian, staged as an audio play by The Kwasha! Theatre Company, Johannesburg – February 2021  
Sboniso Thombeni (Mother) Joel Leonard (Father). Upile Bongco (Zenobia) Wonder Ndlovu (The Neighbour) Mosie Mamaregane (Mugg) Wonder Ndlovu (Shmurz)

Director: Dintshitile Mashile Sound Design: Yogin Sullaphen

Presented by The French Institute of South Africa (IFAS), The Market Theatre Lab and Hayleigh Evans  

Related coverage of The Empire Builders, performed by The Kwasha! Theatre Company, South Africa, 2021: https://thecaperobyn.co.za/theatre-interview-dintshitile-mashile-talks-about-directing-the-empire-builders-sa-2021/

© Production photos by Oscar Gutierrez. Supplied. ❇ Promoted post.