African Gothic by Reza de Wet
Director: Amee Lekas

When: December 1-6, 2023
Where: Theatre Arts, Methodist Church Hall, cnr Milton Road and Wesley Street, Observatory, 7925, Cape Town   
Tickets: R120 and R70 for school students
Bookings: Online at or may be bought at the door  

Cast: Elton Landrew, Celeste Matthews, Wannenburgh Karli Heine and Siyamthanda Bangani
Design: Nell van der Merwe

Beyond exciting news is the staging of Reza de Wet’s African Gothic, de Wet’s at Theatre Arts in Cape Town. Direction is by Amee Lekas. This production has been made possible by Lekas’ award as one of the recipients of the Theatre Arts Emerging Theatre Directors Bursary 2023. The play was first performed in Afrikaans (Diepe Grond), in 1985 at Rhodes University – to “an uproar”. It is a seminal play and it is wonderful that Lekas is directing the play in 2023- reigniting important conversations. Read on for more:

African Gothic by Reza de Wet, directed by Amee Lekas, winner of the Theatre Arts Emerging Theatre Directors Bursary 2023

Amee Lekas is the first recipient of the Theatre Arts Emerging Theatre Director’s Bursary for 2023 and for her award, she has selected to bring Reza de Wet’s dark and edgy classic African Gothic to life, presented in association with DALRO.

African Gothic, de Wet’s most performed play, has a turbulent history. First written in Afrikaans as Diepe Grond it performed to an uproar at Kampustoneel at Rhodes University in 1985.  De Wet’s subversion of a well-loved idyllic rural Afrikaans story by Alba Bouwer resulted in a legal case against De Wet which forced her to change the name of her characters.  Dark and disturbing, its first professional run the following year at The Market Theatre gave audiences a glimpse into the Afrikaans psyche, exposing the treacherous waters that ran beneath the white Afrikaans apartheid veneer at the height of the State of Emergency. 

Being a high school drama educator, Amee Lekas – who follows in the footsteps of an incredible alumni of 25 past Theatre Arts Emerging Theatre Directors Bursary winners that span 14 years and include Standard Bank Young Artist Award winners Nicola Elliott, Amy Jephta, Thando Doni and Mahlatsi Mokgonayana – chose to direct African Gothic as it is a provocative setwork that she deals with in the classroom.

“I chose African Gothic because Reza De Wet wrote this play in a time when it was unheard of to talk about something so dangerous, but real. She exposed the unspoken that probably gave many people sleepless nights. She confronted them with the truth.  As a theatre maker and Dramatic Arts Educator, that is what is expected of us. If we don’t do it, we are fraudulent.

I am just following by example. It is the reason I chose to work with a diverse team. We are people from different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, time, and different training. It’s important for me to remind us artists to see the possibilities to work with different artists. People you would have never thought you would have worked with.

But most of all, I wanted to prove to my learners that they can tell any story they relate to while working with anyone who is willing to be brave with them”.

Amee grew up in the small town of Willowmore in the Karoo and studied drama at Stellenbosch University.  She has a growing reputation as an Afrikaans playwright, winning Teksmark, a project of the KKNK, twice.  In 2017, the fragments of her play Die Dans van die Watermeid led to a commission by The Baxter Theatre and under the direction of Jason Jacobs, a Theatre Arts Emerging Theatre Directors Bursary winner himself in 2016, the production was extremely well received.  Set in her home town amongst its myths and folklore, Die Dans van die Watermeid was described as an emotionally thrilling and socially charged play.

Whilst Amee is not new to directing, coming into African Gothic has been a vital experience for her. With design by Nell van der Merwe and a cast that includes theatre and TV stalwarts Elton Landrew and Celeste Matthews Wannenburgh alongside an established Karli Heine and emerging Siyamthanda Bangani, African Gothic through the bursary has provided her with a rare opportunity to carve out time, explore and sharpen her directing skills – all with much thanks to the National Arts Council and the Presidential Employment Stimulus Package (PESP) that has supported the Theatre Arts Emerging Theatre Directors Bursary for this year.

And with the deliberate choice of African Gothic as a text studied by young people, there is opportunity for the play to live on long after this first run.

Amee Lekas

Amee Lekas, is a passionate theatre practitioner who believes in the power of theatre. She completed her BA Drama and PGCE at the University of Stellenbosch. 

Amee started her career in theatre as an actress and later director in Bloemfontein. However, she is better known for writing the play Die Dans Van Die Watermeid. 

Amee lives in Cape Town, where she teaches Dramatic Arts at Good Hope Seminary High School. Her new mission is to have more young people interested in theatre and teaching them how to use it to bring about social change.

Theatre Arts

Built on the tenets of affordability, inclusivity and accessibility, Theatre Arts (formerly the Theatre Arts Admin Collective) is a vibrant home for local theatre practitioners – a place where they can create work, develop skills, perform, engage in dialogue and meet and work with theatre practitioners who come from diverse backgrounds, whether cultural, social, and economic or simply in skill and experience.  Described as the rehearsal space of choice, Theatre Arts is dedicated to creating the right environment for artists and theatre to flourish.  In an industry which is culturally divided, dominated by a few voices and vastly under-supported financially, both through patronage and funding, Theatre Arts strives to support, enable and provide opportunity for artists to continue developing skills, creating work and generating income.  Open to fresh ideas and up for experimentation based on current trends in economic thinking, Theatre Arts is an organic model and successful training ground for re-conceptualising what a theatre institution, in South Africa, can be and how it can sustain itself.

About the Theatre Arts Emerging Theatre Directors Bursary

Initiated in 2010, The Emerging Theatre Director’s Bursary aims to support the many young and talented directors who are entering into the theatre industry, but with very little opportunity to practice their craft.  This bursary serves as an opportunity for young directors to continue to develop their skills, be mentored in the creation of a new piece of work, to have their work seen by a wider audience, particularly theatre producers and to help establish them in the profession of Directing. 

The bursary, since 2010, has been open nationally to applicants who have 3 years of directing experience. A total of 25 directors from Cape Town, Johannesburg and Makhanda (out of hundreds of applications) have received the bursary.  Nicola Elliott, Amy Jephta, Thando Doni and Mahlatsi Mokgonyana went on to win the Standard Bank Young Artist Award. Kim Kerfoot in 2013 and then ten years later Carlo Daniels won a Fleur du Cap for Best Young Director, Kim for his production of Fugard’s Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act which went on to The Fugard. Qondiswa James, Thando Mangcu and Nwabisa Plaaitjie were nominated for the same award.  Lydia Marelic and Khayelihle Dom Gumede were both nominated for a Naledi Sophie Mcinga New Voices award. Dom won and his production of Crepuscule was commissioned for The Market Theatre.  Jason Jacobs was awarded the KKNK New Voices and was commissioned to present 3 works at the KKNK in 2017.  Tara Notcutt became an overnight sensation and a multi-award winner and Phala Ookeditse Phala went on to win numerous awards for his work on Kafka’s Ape.  The works of Alan Parker, Thembela Madliki, Ameera Conrad, Wynne Bredenkamp, Bulelani Mabutyana and Dintshitile Mashile were all excellent and each have made waves in different ways as well as huge contributions to transforming the theatre industry.  In 2017 at the Cape Town Fringe, the gold, silver and bronze medals all went to past bursary winners.  Almost all have been engaged in teaching the younger generation theatre making.  This is a 10-year cohort of passionate theatre makers striving for and achieving excellence.

The 2023 winners are Amee Lekas, Andi Colombo with runner up Sohail Booise.

 Theatre Arts, Cape Town  

Where: Theatre Arts, Methodist Church Hall, corner Milton Road and Wesley Street, Observatory, Cape Town, 7925

Telegram Channel:
African Gothic: Amee Lekas, winner of a Theatre Arts Emerging Theatre Directors Bursary 2023, is directing Reza de Wet’s iconic play, African Gothic (Diepe Grond in Afrikaans), at Theatre Arts, December 1-6, 2023. Buy tickets at or at the door. Pic supplied.

✳ Sponsored content. Images supplied. Featured image by Jeremeo le Cordeur. Supplied.