Zabalaza Theatre Festival at Baxter

Aphiwe Livi and Buhle Qinga in Thank You for Your Service. Picture by Star Zwane

The 11th annual Baxter Zabalaza Theatre Festival, from Saturday March 20 to Saturday March 27, will showcase 24 productions from the Western Cape and one from Gauteng.

A Script Writing Programme was introduced from August to October 2020 to support the development of new plays. The process took place remotely with mentors assigned to the writers.

Forty-two works of 15-minute segments were presented to a panel of adjudicators (no audience) at the week-long mini festivals. These took the form of staged readings where 21 scripts were chosen to be part of the main festival programme. Each of these productions have undergone a rigorous script development and mentoring process leading up to the festival. An additional three shows were invited to be part of the line-up – two children’s theatre productions – Aha! and The Magic Shell/Uselwa Lemilingo – and Tainted, by Joburg group Flowers of the Nation.

“It was quite clear from the mini festivals that the new approach to the script development process and having industry practitioners (mentors) working closely with the writers at an early stage resulted in works of an exceptionally high standard,” says Zabalaza artistic director, Mdu Kweyama, “There is an urgent need for new writers and especially women writers, so we engaged five inspiring women mentors and four men.”

The 2021 festival is dedicated to the memory of Zoleka Helesi, co-founder and co-ordinator of Zabalaza since its inception. “The tragic passing of Zoleka in December 2020 has left a huge void, not only to her friends and colleagues from the Zabalaza and Baxter teams, but also for the arts in South Africa,” says Baxter CEO and artistic director, Lara Foot. “She played a vital role in linking schools with the festival, exposing thousands of learners from various communities to the magic and power of theatre, on a scale that they may not have had before. Her legacy serves as an inspiration to these young artists, theatre-makers, communities, audiences and all of us.”

Zabalaza Theatre Festival shows are daily at 10am, 10.30am, 11am, 11.30am and 7pm during the week. For the full programme line-up visit

Tickets are R30 per show and booking is through Webtickets or at Pick n Pay stores.

Performances will be limited to 100 audience members (or less, depending on the venue) and all Covid-19 protocols will be observed.