Q&A with veteran actress Thoko Ntshinga

By Drum Digital
01 July 2013

Veteran actress Thoko Ntshinga talks about her role in the internationally acclaimed play Mies Julie

The Baxter Theatre Centre’s smash hit play Mies Julie, written and directed by Yaël Farber, comes full circle andis heading back home to the Cape Town theatre complex for a limited season from 19 June to 6 July. DRUM caught up with Thoko Ntshinga who won the Best Supporting Actress award at the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards for her role as Christine in the show.

Tell us about your character in the show?

Christine is a strong mama. She’s brought up her own son alongside the master’s daughter. The difficulty for her is that she has to manage her role as the cook, the cleaner and the master’s eye in the house while her son’s

needs are superseded by those of the master and his daughter.

She’s involved with the family in every aspect of their lives and this is physically and emotionally taxing for her. It was a tough time in our country and the character, through her struggles, shows audiences just what a difficult time in our history it was.

I remember one night in London when I was performing the scene in which Christine was on her knees praying fervently. She dropped the Bible and one of the audience members, a white Afrikaner man, rose from his seat, picked up the book, and with tears in his eyes said “Ngiyaxolisa” (I’m sorry). That’s how much this character touches people.

How long have you been involved with the show?

I’ve been with the show since its first run at the Baxter Theatre last year. The first rehearsal was on my birthday, 29 May. So it’s been a full year and we’ve come full circle.

Why do you think the play has been such a success on the international stage?

The play doesn’t pull any punches. It doesn’t skirt the issues. It allows viewers to make up their own minds. It challenges long-held thinking and forces people to rethink their views on South Africa, families and human relations.

Of the cities where you’ve staged the show, which was your favourite and why?

We’ve taken the show to London, Edinburgh and New York, but South Africa is still my favourite. South African audiences are different because they get so involved with the show that they react to every emotion. With international audiences, it’s only at the end that you know whether you’ve touched people or not.

During the shows in New York and London in particular, you could hear a pin drop but in South Africa people gasp, cheer and clap.

Do you think theatre acting is a dying art in South Africa?

There was a time when I thought so, but I think it was me being too lazy to look for talent where it is. Talent is not at the traditional places like The Baxter or Market theatres. It may end up there, but talent is in the townships.

People are making their own shows in Langa,Gugulethu and Khayelitsha.

Do you have any exciting projects in the pipeline? I’m working with a group of young people to develop a script. I’m also rewriting a play which I showcased at the Artscape Theatre in Cape Town a few years ago. It’s called Bash of the Bashed. It about what happens at matric dance after-parties. It deals with themes such as peer pressure, drugs and rape.

THE Baxter Theatre Centre’s smash hit play Mies Julie, written and directed by Yaël Farber, comes full circle andis heading back home to the Cape Town theatre complex for a limited season from 19 June to 6 July. DRUM caught up with Thoko Ntshinga who won the Best Supporting Actress award at the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards for her role as Christine in the show.

 

Tell us about your character in the show?

Christine is a strong mama. She’s brought up her own son alongside the master’s daughter. The difficulty for her is that she has to manage her role as the cook, the cleaner and the master’s eye in the house while her son’s

needs are superseded by those of the master and his daughter.

 

She’s involved with the family in every aspect of their lives and this is physically and emotionally taxing for her. It was a tough time in our country and the character, through her struggles, shows audiences just what a difficult time in our history it was.

 

I remember one night in London when I was performing the scene in which Christine was on her knees praying fervently. She dropped the Bible and one of the audience members, a white Afrikaner man, rose from his seat, picked up the book, and with tears in his eyes said “Ngiyaxolisa” (I’m sorry). That’s how much this character touches people.

 

How long have you been involved with the show?

I’ve been with the show since its first run at the Baxter Theatre last year. The first rehearsal was on my birthday, 29 May. So it’s been a full year and we’ve come full circle.

 

Why do you think the play has been such a success on the international stage?

The play doesn’t pull any punches. It doesn’t skirt the issues. It allows viewers to make up their own minds. It challenges long-held thinking and forces people to rethink their views on South Africa, families and human relations.

 

Of the cities where you’ve staged the show, which was your favourite and why?

We’ve taken the show to London, Edinburgh and New York, but South Africa is still my favourite. South African audiences are different because they get so involved with the show that they react to every emotion. With international audiences, it’s only at the end that you know whether you’ve touched people or not.

 

During the shows in New York and London in particular, you could hear a pin drop but in South Africa people gasp, cheer and clap.

 

Do you think theatre acting is a dying art in South Africa?

 

There was a time when I thought so, butI think it was me being too lazy to look fortalent where it is. Talent is not at the traditionalplaces like The Baxter or Market theatres. Itmay end up there, but talent is in the townships.

People are making their own shows in Langa,Gugulethu and Khayelitsha.

 

DO YOU HAVE any exciting projects in the pipeline?

 

I’m working with a group of young people to develop a script. I’m also rewriting a play which I showcased at the Artscape Theatre in Cape Town a few years ago. It’s called Bash of the Bashed. It about what happens at matric dance after-parties. It deals with themes such as peer pressure, drugs and rape.

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