The Bells of Amersfoot

Theatre on the Square
07/18/2002 00:00:00

Group bookings R35 (normally R70)
Written by Zakes Mda
Directed by Aram Adriaanse
Presented by The Sibikwa Players and De Nieuw Amsterdam Theatre Company
in association with The Liberty Theatre on the Square
23 July to 3 August
A unique and sensational new South African play, collaborated in association with an international theatre company, is about to grace the stage of the Liberty Theatre on the Square from the 23rd July for a short season The new play, THE BELLS OF AMERSFOORT, is written by one of South Africa's most distinguished writers and has an international cast and setting. It is the perfect, stimulating and challenging new production that serious South African theatre goers have been waiting for.
The playwright is Zakes Mda, the story is set in Holland and, for the first time, the Sibikwa Players from Benoni, are combining their resources and talents with a Dutch company in association with The Liberty Theatre on the Square in Sandton.
Mda was asked to write a play for the combination of Sibikwa and Die Nieuw Amsterdam, a physical theatre company from Holland. He has produced a post-apartheid drama of exile, set in a small Dutch town, with South African characters, black and white, coming to terms with having no reason to remain in Europe. The play promises to be an explosive mix of memories and attitudes and a searching look at ideals and reality in our current South African society. Mda chose the provincial town of Amersfoort to set his characters' conflict. The black girl, Thami Walaza and the white Afrikaner, Johan van der Bijl, both feel displaced and homesick in the shadow of Amersfoort's Lang Jan church tower. But neither finds it easy or simple to return to a home country that has changed so greatly.
While Mda has used the experiences of South African expatriates in Amersfoort, the dramatic exposition is from his own fertile imagination. He has expressed themes of personal responsibility and integrity, coming to terms with traumatic past events and the need for humanity and forgiveness, in lively style. He has been inspired by the richness of Xhosa culture, composing music for the singing and dancing of ritual and feast, to contrast with life in the Netherlands as seen through a stranger's eyes. After rehearsing the dances with Mda, the Sibikwa cast members then taught the DNA members.
The Sibikwa Company, founded by Phyllis Klotz and Smal Ndaba as part of the Sibikwa Community Theatre project, has become famous for its plays and musical shows, which have appeared at festivals from Edinburgh to Singapore and toured Europe and North America, garnering awards and recognition. Die Nieuw Amsterdam is inspired by drama forms and disciplines from Dutch and other cultures. The combined company consists of South African, Dutch, Surinamese, Italian and Peruvian members. Like Sibikwa and The Liberty Theatre on the Square, DNA is a theatre company which also trains young people for the professional stage, providing a foundation course for those planning to go to drama school.
THE BELLS OF AMERSFOORT first previewed at Sibikwa's theatre in June and thereafter at the Grahamstown Festival. This unique production is currently running at the Baxter in Cape Town before its Gauteng debut on the 23rd July.

Role - Name
Tami Walaza - Thabang Masupha (SA)
Luthando Vela - Macebo Mavuso (SA)
Johan van der Bijl - Reinier Bulder (N)
Katja - Suzanne Bakker (N)
Martin - Maikel August van Hetten (S)
Catharina - Marie-Christine Op den Kelder (N)
Helen - Sibu Gcilitshana (N)
Mzamo - Zakes Zakhele Simango (SA)
Fritz - Marvin Kolk (N)
Minor roles are played by members of the ensemble
[N=Netherlands, SA=South Africa, S=Surinam, P=Peru, I=Italy]
Tickets may be purchased at Liberty Theatre on the Square by tele-booking on tel. 011 883 8606 or through Computicket on 011 340 8000. On-line bookings can be made - There are special discounts for schools and special interest groups. Call Daphne Kuhn at the theatre on Tel. 011 883 8606.

For further media information and photos please contact DAPHNE KUHN
Tel. 011 883 8606 or 083 377 4969 /

Original music- Zakes Mda (SA)
Set design - Floor Oskam (N)
Costumes - Rien Bekkers (N)
Lighting - Dirk Blom (N)
Technical director - Joris van Rossem (N)
Photography - Jean van Lingen (N)
Trombone - Tortola Giovanni (I)
Company manager - Nilo Berrocal (P)
Cape Town/Johannesburg
Managing director DNA - Gerrit Wunhoud (N)
Script adviser - Claudia de Weerd (N)
Singing/dance training - Smal Ndaba and Thandi Vilakazi (SA)
Stage manager - Kenny Bolokwe (SA)
Graphic design - Ron van Roon (N)
The Play
The oppression and cruelties of apartheid are in the past and a democratic government is in place. Many South Africans, who went into exile in order to fight for freedom from another country, plan to return to participate in the reconciliation process.
Tami Walaza, a black woman living in the Netherlands, wants to go back to her country, her friends and, especially, to her lover Luthando. But she shows no intention of leaving the small town of Amersfoort. This is not because she likes the town or is integrated into its society. She still feels an outsider and is surprised by the behaviour and mentality of its citizens. She misses the liveliness, the laughter, the singing and dancing of the Xhosa people, but unfinished business holds her.
Johan van der Bijl, a white Afrikaner, living in the Netherlands to complete his theological studies, also feels out of place. Though his ancestors came from Holland he is connected to Africa, not Europe and is homesick. But life at home has changed.
For both, fresh obstacles in the new South Africa have replaced the old and, torn by doubt, the two expatriates try to survive in the shadow of Amersfoort's Lang Jan bell tower. Torn by doubt, they have much in common, including doubts about taking up life at home after so long away.
The Author
Zakes Mda, internationally acclaimed playwright, novelist, painter, academic and composer, received the first doctorate in drama from the University of Cape Town. He has received many awards including the M-Net Book Prize and Commonwealth Prize for Africa. He has studied and worked in South Africa, Lesotho, Great Britain and the United States and now lives in South Africa, devoting his time to writing. He has made a major contribution to the development of dramatic art through his writing, teaching and productions. His publications include a volume of poetry, several plays and novels including She Plays With The Darkness, Ways Of Dying and, recently, The Heart Of Redness. He sets in both present and past, taking immense pains with the historic settings.
The Director
Aram Adriaanse is artistic director of De Nieuw Amsterdam and has been artistic director of other Dutch theatre groups after spending some of his directing apprenticeship with revolutionary director Ariane Mnouchkian and Pina Bausch. Since he joined, in 2000, he has directed Kama Sutra, Lysistrata and DOEK as well as conducting theatre workshops to students of various drama schools and has appeared on Dutch television.
Sibikwa Players
Sibikwa's first productions illustrated injustice and oppression in South African society. Now they reflect attempts at reconciliation and forgiveness in the new South Africa as activists of the political struggle come to terms with the need to change and adapt to meet new challenges. Last year's Community Storytelling Festival opened a new and very successful participative form of theatre which brought various communities together to share their stories. The Sibikwa Community Theatre Project was founded in 1988 by Smal Ndaba and Phyllis Klotz, to teach theatre skills to adults and young people from the township of Daveyton. In an area of high unemployment, it provided drama courses and an opportunity to join the professional performing company. Today, most of the actors, singers, dancers and stage crew participating in Sibikwa productions have been trained at the school. Productions, focused on social issues, have been presented not only at theatres but a wide variety of locations throughout the country and at festivals throughout the world. Sibikwa has won a number of awards for its contributions to South African theatre, including the FNB Vita. This is the company's 9th production at the Grahamstown Festival.
De Nieuw Amsterdam
The theatre company, was founded in 1986 by an American and a Surinamese theatre worker. It includes members from a variety of countries and is characterized by a physical style of acting inspired by drama forms and disciplines from Dutch and other cultures. They have toured in Europe, Britain, South Africa and Surinam. DNA is subsidised by the Dutch ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the City of Amsterdam. Additional subsidies for the production of The Bells of Amersfoort were granted by the (Dutch) Fund for Performing Arts, the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, the VSB-Fonds and the NCDO. The Dutch Embassy in Pretoria supports the South African tour financially. DNA also runs a one-year education course for young people interested in multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural drama that plan to study at a drama school.

For further information and photos please contact - Berniece Friedmann
021 434 4951 or 082 892 5877