Theatre in the Backyard is spreading their love for the arts, one backyard production at a time. Picture: Supplied
Theatre in the Backyard is spreading their love for the arts, one backyard production at a time. Picture: Supplied

Theatre celebrated in townships

By Keshia Africa Time of article published Aug 29, 2021

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Cape Town - Conventional theatre usually takes place in theatre halls but for one performing arts enthusiast the higgledy-piggledy backyards of township homes is the best stage there ever could be.

Theatre in the Backyard is the brainchild and passion project of director Mhlanguli George and his love for the arts.

Since 2012 George has aimed to make the arts more accessible to people in townships by taking productions from theatres to their backyards.

What started as a community development project has bloomed into a creative at form.

George said he wanted to explore new ways of thinking and new ways of creating theatre.

“That's how we started.

“I had a curiosity about what was happening in people’s backyards.

“I call it an artistic curiosity.

“It is a model of theatre that reveals the secrets of the backyard, a personal space.

“I wanted us to investigate and create productions around the stories told in backyards.”

George has always wanted to make a statement about the arts as a career.

“When I started introducing kids to theatre I realised that parents don’t support it as a career choice.

“I want kids to realise that it is a feasible career option.

“When our families want to watch theatre, they need to go to mainstream theatres and many of them never get there,” George said.

To the director, theatre felt like a ghost to the Nyanga community where he lived at the time.

“To me, it was about reaching out to people in our community and introducing them to theatre,” he said.

Over the years, Theatre in the Backyard has taken centre stage in many backyards across South Africa while occasionally collaborating with art organisations to put on shows.

Some of the company’s accolades include hosting a combined theatre and dining experience with tourism organisation Coffeebeans Routes.

In future, George would like to take his company to more homes across the country.

“We are working on a Theatre in the Backyard mobile festival and would like to turn these stories into a book,” George said.

Director Mhlanguli George is passionate about making theatre accessible to townships. Picture: Supplied

George’s love for acting was began in high school when he and his classmates took acting classes as an extramural activity.

“I was very reluctant at first.

“I eventually joined it, and the love of arts started to develop.

“By matric, I knew I wanted to study performing arts.”

George hails from Makanda and moved to Cape Town in 2009, after completing his advanced certificate in performing arts at Lovedale Public TVET College, in the Eastern Cape.

“I was invited to teach theatre and dance at Robben Island Primary School, and I stayed on.”

A lack of funding has made it difficult for Theatre in the Backyard to run at the pace that it used to.

“We want to create more.

“The arts are important and we need the support from the government,” George said.

George is inspired by how other artists approach their work and encourages aspiring artists to not give up.

“Keep working hard and open up your network to other artists as well,” he said.

Weekend Argus

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