A career lifting off

2008-02-01 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG-born actor Simphiwe Junior Ngidi is currently busy with rehearsals for the Durban run of Jerry Pooe's musical, Peace in our Lifetime, opening in the Playhouse Drama Theatre tomorrow and running until February 7. The play, written and directed by Pooe with musical arrangement by Brian Thusi and choreography by Thulebona Mzizi, opened at the

Winston Churchill theatre in December and has recently finished a tour of KwaZulu-Natal.

Ngidi grew up in Lynfield Park and went to Haythorne High School before going on to the Durban University of Technology to do a Bachelor of Arts degree in drama.

“In Peace in our Lifetime, I play an old character,” says the 21-year-old actor. The musical, developed from Pooe's earlier play, Peace in the Valley, is about two young lovers, Sputla and Maria, from different sections of a township, and Ngidi's character is a voice of reason, calling for peace and humanity.

“It's not easy to play an old man. My voice has to change - I have to speak slower, make slower gestures and move slower. And it's quite a big role. I come in here and there to reconcile people, talk about the struggle and encourage people to mend their relationships.”

It is a challenging role for a young actor, but Ngidi likes that. “It's part of my personality to take on these kinds of roles,” he says.

He may still be at the start of his career, but he is already being noticed. When he was still a student at the Durban University of Technology he won a best supporting actor award for his role as Victor in One for the Road, which is due to be performed at the Playhouse next month, from March 9 to 11, as part of the New Stages programme, and has already been to the Makufe Festival in Bloemfontein.

Other productions from his student years included Exodus, directed by Ellis Pearson and lead roles in both Ipi Ntombi and Too Late, again directed by Jerry Pooe.

For now, theatre is what Ngidi is doing. But if the chance came up, as a dedicated film fan, he would love to get into the movies. He would be happy to try his hand at any roles that came his way, although drama is his favourite genre. “I'd have a go at comedy, but I'm not sure that I've really got comic timing,” he says.

And in his final year as a student, Ngidi won the DUT award for the most outstanding male singer. “I think I could make a career out of my singing - I would love to go international with my music,” he says.

As a student he studied jazz, R 'n B and “a little bit of opera”, and music is one of his greatest loves. “I sing in Peace in our Lifetime,” he says. “I have a solo, and later on, sing a number with the chorus.”

Ngidi hopes that Pooe will take the musical on tour to other countries in Africa. It would be another milestone in a career which looks to be lifting off.

• Peace in our Lifetime runs in the Playhouse Drama Theatre from tomorrow until February 7. Shows are at 7.30 pm with a 2.30 pm matinee on Sunday. Tickets: R40 (adults) and R20 (students and children) from Computicket or the Playhouse Box Office at 031 369 9444.

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