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Ntlantla Swana, Leah Mari named winners in inaugural Cabaret and Beyond Festival

Multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger Ntlantla Swana from Gqeberha and singer, pianist and musical theatre performer Leah Mari from Durban have been announced the winners of the inaugural Cabaret and Beyond Festival. Hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal's Centre for Creative Arts, in collaboration with the Mandela Bay Theatre Complex, 21 composers finished a four-month new musical theatre writing initiative, culminating in a successful live showcase staged at the Seabrooke Theatre in Durban.
Inaugural Cabaret and Beyond Festival<br>winners Ntlantla Swana and Leah Mari
Inaugural Cabaret and Beyond Festival
winners Ntlantla Swana and Leah Mari

“What a pleasure to see this new writing project come to fruition with such overwhelming success. New musical theatre is a 'hard sell’ for local audiences who are unfamiliar with this aspect of the genre, but they fell hook, line and sinker,” says Roland Perold, curator and project manager of the Cabaret and Beyond Festival.

The adjudicating panel, consisting of artistic director Xabiso Zweni from Gqeberha, international opera singer Nozuko Teto from Durban, theatre director Lesedi Job from Johannesburg, ‘Fleur de Cap’ recipient for new writing development Paul Griffiths from Cape Town, and musical director and event specialist Evan Roberts from Durban, was led in discussion by Perold after attending the showcase gala event on 16 October.

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Financial assistance and dramaturgical support

The winning composers will each receive financial assistance and dramaturgical support to finish their one-act musicals. They will then receive a professional staging with a Durban-based cast and creative team who start rehearsal in February 2022. The productions will premiere at the Mandela Bay Theatre Complex in March and then return to Durban for a short season. A national tour is also being considered.

“We congratulate Ntlantla Swana and Leah Mari as the winners identified to receive grants for further development. As partners with the Nelson Mandela Bay Theatre Complex, we believe that we have an ideal product that will grow the capacity of new composers and attract audiences to return to live theatre after 18 months of a national lockdown. We are also confident that the curation and artistic direction led by Roland Perold is vital for the future growth of South African musical theatre,” says Ismail Mahomed, director of the Centre for Creative Arts.

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