The youth had their month in June, the women in August, Heritage in September, New Voices in October and now, ushering in the summer, Artscape is proud to present a fitting homage to veterans in theatre with two productions bearing three big names in the industry: Fahruq Valley-Omar, Ivan Abrahams and SAFTA (South African Film & Television Awards) Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Thoko Ntshinga.

Valley-Omar’s one-man play, The Tree of Life will be in the Arena on November 2 and 3 while Abrahams and Ntshinga will star in Hertzog Boulevard also in the Arena from November 21 to 24.

Fahruq Valley-Omar, stars in The Tree of Life. Right: SAFTA Lifetime Achievement award winner, Thokozile Ntshinga, stars in Hertzog Boulevard

The Tree of life is a symbol of a fresh start on life, a positive energy, good health and a bright future, often seen as a symbol of immortality. A tree grows old, yet it bears seeds that contain its very essence and in this way, the tree becomes immortal and seen as a symbol of growth and strength. The Tree of Life is based on and inspired by the writings of Paulo Coelho and draws from various faiths and cultural traditions. The motivating factor for this production is to create a greater awareness in the diversity of religion and cultural traditions practiced in South Africa. It is presented in evocative vignettes, representing different cultures, religions and themes. They are insightful, happy, humorous, sad, celebratory, and each portrays a lesson for modern day living in a multicultural and diverse faith environment. The fear that religious intolerance and sectarianism experienced on a global level has taken root in South Africa have become a reality. Not to mention the gender-based violence that continues to haunt our communities. Babies and youth are statistics of rape, attacks and killings, despite our human rights constitution that should protect our most vulnerable citizens. The Tree of Life reminds us of our humanity. Humankind’s ability to coexist with the ‘other’. This production is particularly relevant in a time where South Africans are dealing with unfulfilled promises of our young democracy. It pulls us towards one another and unites us based on our similarities, instead of dividing us based on our differences. It becomes a valuable tool to teach and remind young and old about love, forgiveness, tolerance, hope, care and compassion. Values that are often forgotten in a life immersed in consumerism. Well-known television and theatre actor, Zane Meas, is in the director’s chair.

Hertzog Boulevard is both a tragedy and a love story, but it’s also a very funny reminder of the fragility of our ideals. Who are the forgotten and over-looked people who live on Cape Town’s streets and how do they get up every morning to spend another day searching for food in dustbins and begging for money to buy a drink, and how different are they really to those of us who spend our days in the more acceptable parts of the city? Lazarus (played by the charming Ivan Abrahams) has just returned to his old stomping ground after spending time in Pollsmoor prison for attempted murder. While incarcerated he converted to Christianity and became a preacher, but back on the streets he is forced to question whether he really changed as much as he thought he had. He is re-discovered by his oldest friend, Dorcas, (the award-winning Thoko Ntshinga) who is a harsh realist, but fiercely protective of her long-time partner. Together they share the tragedy and humour that always reside so close together for Cape Town’s “bergies”. Hertzog Boulevard is directed by the award-winning Fatima Dike.

The Tree of Life is in the Arena on November 2 at 7.30pm and on November 3 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

Hertzog Boulevard is in the Arena nightly at 7.30pm from November 21 to 24.