Tagged: Zulu

Review of Cape Town Production: Torchbearers

Torchbearers -full cast  + choir + musicians in Cape Town

Torchbearers -full cast + choir + musicians in Cape Town

“The words are theirs, the dream is ours” the Zulu narrator of Torchbearers calls out. His words reverberate through different generations and across diverse cultures as we piece together the
story of two star-crossed lovers from very different walks of life.

Last night’s show of Torchbearers at the Artscape Theatre blew me away. Not only was the acting incredible from the diverse cast of South African and Welsh performers; but the story, the costumes, the choreography – everything was awe-inspiring.

The musical tells the story of two young lovers: Thembesile, a young Zulu girl, and Gerwyn, a Welsh actor, who meet on the set of the 1964 classic film, Zulu, in Johannesburg. The two fall in love but are torn asunder by apartheid and destined never to see one another again. Although they spend years apart and lead completely separate lives, their longing for one another never diminishes and we share their hope of a future together. We experience not only their past but also how it shapes their present and future. We watch as their children and grandchildren grow up in the same world they did but experience it differently due to the immense changes that have occurred since their own youth.

Without exception all the actors did a brilliant job, but the two leads, Zoliswa Euphonia Kawe and Nathan Sussex, did a particularly remarkable job reliving the memories and showcasing the hurt and loss their characters both experienced in their lives.

This beautiful story was written and directed by Laurence Allan who was inspired by his own experiences watching Zulu as a child. With the help of Valleys Kids, a community development charity, his intention was to unite the youth of the South Wales Valleys (one of the most deprived areas in Europe) with South Africa’s townships through a blend of acting, circus performance, dance, music and song. And he has succeeded superbly. This hodge podge of creativity blends together to create a truly beautiful work of art that celebrates and brings together two very diverse cultures.

And it’s this amazing combination of all forms of creativity that calls upon the skills of many local South African companies. The dancers are from the local upliftment project Dance For All and, choreographed by Christoper Kindo, they effortlessly dominate the stage encapsulating the raw emotion of the actors, providing a beautiful backdrop to all the scenes. Combined with the stylised sounds of the Cape Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, the alluring vocals of the Fezeka Voice choir and the amazing feats of the Zip Zap Circus School, this show has it all. Rich in cultural history and a beautiful fusion of two cultures, this heartfelt story shouldn’t be missed.

REVIEW by Claire Pokorchak
- What’s On in Cape Town

Torchbearers was at the Artscape Theatre 8 – 11 November 2012.

Love Letters from Torchbearers



Torchbearers began with letters, written but never sent by the two protagonists: Gerwyn – an aspiring Welsh actor who lands a dream part in the iconic film Zulu (starring Stanley Baker and Michael Caine) and Thembesile – a young Zulu dancer who is also in the film. Both in their late teens, they meet on the film set in 1964, oblivious to the brutal laws of apartheid they fall in love, but are torn apart. The play follows their story over the next 40 odd years through their letters and their children and children’s children – “Fear will never keep us apart”

Dear Gerwyn,

It is now one year since I last saw you. It is our hot season so I think it must be very cold in your country. I know you don’t like the cold but I know how you didn’t like hot in your big clothes. I am back home now but all things are very different. They did not keep me long in the prison, only two weeks I think, they did not treat me bad but cold tea and mealie is not good every day. They would not let me go back to the camp but our friend Mandla, he tell me about the big trouble and how they send you home in aeroplane. I feel so bad I give you all this big trouble and know it is my fault. I am hoping the trouble ends now you are home and your family will be good to you but I do not know your country and your people.



The man I told you about who will change things, the man they call Madiba,  is in prison also. They say he will be in prison for very long time but I know one day he will be free and make things better and I will do what I have promised. I hope you remember what I have promised?

I also have to tell you that you are always close to me because I have to tell you that you now have a son. I cannot tell you that he looks like you because I know he does not but with his funny smile and thick black hair I know that he is our son. His name is  Zaziwe which means hope   and he is already singing just like you and it sounds just like the welsh songs you taught me. One day I will teach him the real words because they are still with me

I will finish writing now but I do not  know how to send it. I do not want to get you into more trouble. Perhaps I will keep it for the day when I can give it to you. I will not break my promise.

I am sending all my loving



Dance for All Duet

Young Thembesile & young Gerwyn

Dear Thembisile,

I am sorry for waiting so long to write to you but I was so afraid of making things worse for you. Every minute I see them taking you away and wish it was me. I hope they treated you well but have a terrible feeling they didn’t. I can hardly bear to think about it. There are some terrible people in your country. While I was waiting to leave I asked one of those security people what would happen to you. He said they would sentence you to a month in prison. I could not believe it. I still can’t. What did we do wrong?

Things are not so good here at home. I think my career is finished and even some of my family don’t talk to me. It seems some people are just as bad in my country as they are in yours. I have now got a job in the mines, not mining diamonds though, just coal. I hate it. But I am still singing and have joined a choir. Perhaps one day I shall teach them the song you taught me. For now I sing it to myself.

They tell me I will never be able to return to your country for what I have done but I still don’t understand what I have done wrong. I don’t believe them and I know one day I will return to find you. Perhaps that man you told me about will change things soon. Perhaps I will write to him.

I don’t know how to send this letter to you as I only have the name of your village and you might not be there. Also I’m afraid of people opening it and getting you iinto bigger trouble. I am so sorry for all this and hope you can forgive me but I will make it right. One day I will make it all right. And don’t worry about your promise, I will not keep you to it. But I will never forget you and I will see you again. Somehow. Somewhere.

Your dearest love



Dear Gerwyn,

I cannot tell you what a terrible and happy day this is for me. Sometimes things get better but mostly things get worse. But I do not know if my country can do any more worse things. Now they have started killing our children. Our son Ziziwe is twelve now and is a good boy and goes to school. He went to school five days ago and stayed away for five days. He likes school and loves to learn but this day the students did not go to school. They did not like the way they were being taught in a language they didn’t understand so went on a big march so people would know what they felt. They were only children. And they were only marching. The policemen fired their guns at them. Fired their guns and killed them. Many children. I do not know how many but some people say hundreds. Parents and brothers and sisters carried the children home in their arms even though they knew they were dead. Ziziwe did not come home and I could not find him. Not until today, when he walks into my kitchen. But he is not like my Ziziwe, he is not smiling and singing he is frightened and angry. He was frightened to come home in case they came looking for him and did something to me as well. I give him such a big hug but he does not hug me like he used to. Not like  the little baby he is. Not like the child he is. They have taken something out of him and put something else there. I don’t know if it’s good or bad.

Do they tell you these things in your country? I hope so. The man they call Madiba is still in prison. I don’t think they will ever let him out. I think about you every day and tell Ziziwe all bout his welsh father. Remember what I have promised.

All my dearest loving



Dear Thembisile,

Today is my birthday. It would be so good to receive a card from you but I don’t think I told you when it was so how could you. And where would you send it. I am spending the day by myself as my son and daughters are with their mothers. Yes I have been married twice but things don’t seem to work out for me. I think I am always looking for someone like you or perhaps I am just looking for you.

I am still in Wales and still working in the mines but things don’t look very good. Mines are closing and there is talk of a big strike and I fear that will make things worse. Sometimes I think of packing it all in and leaving and coming to look for you. I know I can’t and I imagine unlike me you are now happily married and have forgotten all about me.

The choir I have joined  are next year going on a trip to your country I cannot believe it and I also cannot believe I still cannot go. After all this time. My son, who thinks a lot says I should not go anyway and support the boycott. My head says he’s right but my heart longs for one chance to see you again. Just to see you and talk to you. After all these years I still miss you and think about you every day.

I see they man you call Madiba is still in prison. I think your country likes to imprison people for doing nothing wrong. I think it must be now nearly twenty years. Perhaps we were lucky. Perhaps when they release him we will be able  to be together. If just for  a moment. Just a moment.

Your dear Welsh friend


Gerwyn & Thembesilef

Theatre Plays

Excerpt from: The New Companion to the Literature of Wales – editor Meic Stephens

‘Born 1954 in Pontypridd, Mid Glamorgan. His passionate, humane and sometimes angry concern for the plight of ordinary people is evident in much of his writing. Above all he articulates feelings of disempowerment experienced by those who find themselves caught up in economic and political changes beyond their control. Although the world he presents is often bleak, his plays are also characterized by mordant black humour and an affectionate, sharp ear for the idiomatic English of South Wales.’

1985    ‘Over the Wall and Back Again’, Writer & Director Made in Wales,

1986    Duel at Twilight, Spectacle Theatre

1988    A Blow to Bute Street’, Sherman Theatre

1990    ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’, Made in Wales/Theatr Clwyd/Sherman

1991    The Valley of the Kings is a Community Play about Pontypridd

1994     ‘On the Road Again’, Hijinx Theatre, Wales & England Tour (published by Seren books)

1996     ‘Stairway to Heaven’, Hijinx Theatre, Wales & England Tour

1997     ‘Dangerous Acquaintances’  Hijinx Theatre, Wales & England Tour

1997    ‘Cradle to the Grave’   Welsh College of Music and Drama & Made in Wales. (published by Seren books)

2002            Angels Don’t Need Wings’ Hijinx Theatre 21st Anniversary production @ ShermanTheatre

2002                ‘More than just a Game’ -  Plymouth Theatre Royal, Young People’s Company

2004                ‘For Ever’ – Adaptation of Short Story – Plymouth Theatre Royal

2004                ‘Flowers from Tunisia’Theatr y Byd

2005                ‘If you can’t sing, stand at the back of the hall.’ - Plymouth Theatre Royal/York Theatre Royal & Unicorn Theatre, London                                                                        

2009                Stairway To Heaven On The Edge – tour.

2009               Gladiator – Spectacle Theatre /RCT Commssion – ongoing

2010            The Day Stanley Baker Died The Zulus Rapped on Llanwonno Mountain(Writer & Director) Mzansi Cymru showcase, Soar Centre, Penygraig      

2011                   Life on Robben Island (Writer & Director) – Unusual Stage School, Disability Arts Cymru + Valleys Kids collaboration: Mzansi Cymru, Glanfa Stage, WMC

2011            Flowers from Tunisia, Torch Theatre + Wales Tour

2011            ‘Torchbearers’ Showcase, (Writer & Director)  Zip Zap Circus,                    Cape Town, South Africa

2012               Torchbearers’ (Writer & Director)  Donald Gordon Theatre, WMC & Artscape Theatre, Cape Town, South Africa