Mehlala takes centre stage in Makhanda

The Market Theatre Foundation

The Market Theatre Laboratory celebrates the 50th anniversary of the National Arts Festival by participating in it with a thrilling lineup of performances, from current students to Market Theatre Lab Alumni.

Over the past few month rehearsals have been underway to bring some truly wonderful offerings to the National Arts Festival. Cherea Halley, Head of the Market Theatre Lab says, “We are thrilled to be participating in this milestone year at the festival, both with our current students and our esteemed alumni.”

Headed on the road to NAF and representing the Market Theatre Lab will be the current2nd Year student cohort, who debut their new piece, Mehlala, directed by the incredible Billy Langa, a Lab alumnus and Standard Bank Young Artist award-winner for Theatre 2023 who is assisted by 2nd Year student Thamsanqa Gxubane.

Mehlala is a powerful story that follows the journey of a young girl named Lethabo, as she ventures to Johannesburg in search of her mother. The production weaves together the intricate threads of personal family legacies and community narratives, offering audiences a captivating glimpse into the heart of South Africa’s complex history. You can catch Mehlala on the Fringe from 20 – 24 July 2024.

The Market Theatre Laboratory will not only be cheering on the 2nd Year production but are rallying behind the large collective of alumni and Lab associated artistics who will present some powerful work of their own in celebration of this anniversary year.

This year’s Standard Bank Young Artist award winner for theatre, Momo Matsunyane, is ready to wow audiences with her new piece, Ka Lebitso La Moya. The production features recent Market Theatre Lab alumni Chrisophocus Seboka and Zevangeli Mampofu with choreography by Sinenhlala Mgeyi, another proud Lab alumnus and a course facilitator at the Market Theatre Lab.

Also taking on the curated programme, in the role of director are alumni Paul Noko, Monageng Vice Motshabi and Mahlatsi Mokgonyana. Noko, who is no stranger to the National Arts Festival will be debuting his latest work 1 Yard, 7 Shacks as part of his larger academic research on indigenous performance styles. Motshabi, 2016 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for theatre presents The Red on the Rainbow, written by Motshabi and published in 2022. The production stars a stellar cast including Market Theatre Lab alumni Barileng Thato Malebye, Thapelo Mohapi and Dambuza Nqumashe. Mokgonyana, 2023 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for theatre has tackled Can Themba’s iconic The Suit bringing new life into the original adapted text which was first directed by none other than the Market Theatre Lab’s very own co-founder, Barney Simon.

Returning to the festival is the brilliant and satirical Text Me When You Arrive, directed by Mgeyi and starring alumni Alliyah Matintela, Thuli Nduvane, and Sibahle Mangena. A production which was first developed by the admired cast while pursuing their studies at the Market Theatre Lab, and that continues to make waves on various festival platforms. Matintela will also be directing Lab-alumnus Philangezi Nxumalo in his powerful one-man satire, S.O.N.D.A (State of the Nation Disaster), fresh off its successful runs at the Kippie’s Fringe at The Market Theatre, TX Theatre, Joburg Theatre and the South African State Theatre.

From directors to actors, choreographers to stage managers and lighting designers, The Market Theatre Lab is feeling celebratory at this year’s National Arts Festival. Come and support our incredible artists and celebrate 50 years of creativity. Don’t miss The Market Theatre Lab’s students and alumni at the festival this year! Follow the link to purchase tickets,


About the Market Theatre Lab:

Homed under the umbrella of The Market Theatre Foundation, The Market Theatre Lab is a multi-award-winning arts incubator, with a reputation for facilitating the development of exceptional young theatre-makers, facilitators, actors, writers and directors, and for creating innovative and relevant new plays. With multiple local, African and global partners, the Lab strives to create enriching experiences that contribute to the personal and artistic growth of each person who participates in our programmes. When the Market Theatre Laboratory opened its doors in 1989, the intention of its founders, Vanessa Cooke, Dr John Kani and Barney Simon, was to provide opportunities to talented youth from disadvantaged backgrounds who would not otherwise be able to pursue their passion for the arts or study further. This remains an integral part of the Lab’s purpose, along with a determination to assist young artists to build sustainable careers, and to create space and visibility for subaltern experiences, voices and identities. The Market Theatre Laboratory is led by Cherae Halley, with all projects managed by Thandeka Nheke.

Sannah Mabokela
011 832 1641
The Market Theatre Foundation