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uMabatha: A play by Welcome Msomi

Masker Theatre, Hatfield Campus
20/09/2016 - 24/09/2016
The Drama Department regrets to inform you that uMabatha and events around the production has been postponed until further notice. The department apologises for the inconvenience and looks forward to welcoming you at the rescheduled run of the production.

The University of Pretoria's Department of Drama will present a re-interpretation of Welcome Msomi's iconic and critically acclaimed 1971 play, uMabatha, from 20 to 24 September 2016. This year marked the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's birth and the Department salutes both Shakespeare and a local living legend with this production.

Msomi's play offers a localised reading of Shakespeare's Macbeth and became known as ‘the Zulu Macbeth'. Msomi explored themes in Macbeth – such as abuse of power and unchecked ambition, and their potential to corrupt; greed and deceit; tyranny and oppression; and fate vs free will – in the context of early 19th-century South Africa. He (freely) interpreted and aligned Shakespeare's narrative to run parallel to the historical narrative of Shaka kaSenzangakhona (Shaka Zulu). Characters and locations were transposed to a local context: Macbeth, Macduff, Lady Macbeth and Banquo become Mabatha, Mafudu, Kamadonsela and Bhangane respectively, and the invading army that defeats Mabatha is Swazi. The play is a landmark in the South African theatre landscape.

Moleele's directorial interpretation simultaneously shifts and references the cultural framework in which Msomi's play was located through mise-en-scène and dramatic language. The play makes use of a multi-cultural cast of first- and second-year drama students, complimented by the Usuthu community theatre groups from Atteridgeville and Mamelodi. Moleele is supported by choreographer Luyanda Sidyia (Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance 2015), set designer Karabo Legoabe and costume designer Nthabiseng Makone. 

The Department of Drama is grateful to Welcome Msomi Communications for making the performance rights available.


Venue: Masker Theatre, Hatfield Campus

Dates: 20–23 September 2016 at 19:00 with a matinee at 15:00 on 23 and 24 September

Tickets: R50 for adults, R40 for students and learners

Learner and student block bookings of 20 persons or more: R35 per person

Tickets are available online at Tixsa ( and at the door.

We regret that no cash payments will be accepted. Debit/credit card facilities will be available at the door.


A Brief History of uMabatha

uMabatha premiered at the Open Air Theatre at the University of Natal (Now the University of KwaZulu-Natal) in 1971 when Msomi was a drama student there. He was invited to close the Royal Shakespeare Company's World Theatre Season in London with his play in 1972. The production was remounted in 1973 at London's Aldwych Theatre, where it broke all box office records. The play was subsequently staged numerous times during the 1970s, including productions at the Italian and American Spoleto Festivals, London's Old Vic (1977) and for three months at an off-Broadway theatre in New York City, as well as at various theatres in Aberdeen in Scotland, Zimbabwe, Cape Town and Johannesburg.  uMabatha was revived in post-Apartheid South Africa in 1995 at the request of Nelson Mandela.  

Contact: 012 420 2558