Renos Nicos Spanoudes chats to Honours graduate in Theatre and Performance, Megan Miller about the Iconic Saturday Night at The Palace which is making a historic return to the stage with an updated cast and impressive staging.
It’s nearly showtime for this iconic, multi-award-winning South African play, once again gracing the Gauteng stage, 41 years after its explosive debut during apartheid in 1982, when it opens at Joburg Theatre on 28 July.
Since announcing earlier this month that the play would return to the stage, Johannesburg audiences have been buzzing with anticipation. Award-winning director Albert Maritz, who has brought the production to life, says there’s much to look forward to. “The actors have shown the utmost commitment to what is an incredibly well-crafted and intense script and Megan Miller has wrapped her head, heart, and arms around the costume and set design which, as a naturalistic set, has required incredible skill, talent and hard work and the results are remarkable. The Johannesburg Theatre has offered us brilliant support in being able to bring this riveting and meaningful production to the public.”
Samson Khumalo, best known for his role as Percy Mlambo on the M-Net sitcom The Coconuts, as well as Heartlines The Other Woman and Isibaya, plays the role of September (originally played by Fats Dibeko in the 1980s), while Charlie Bouguenon plays Vince (originally Paul Slabolepszy and Francois Jacobs (originally Bill Flynn) plays Forsie.
Written by the award-winning playwright and actor Paul Slabolepszy in 1981, the play launched Slabolepszy’s theatrical career and quickly earned him a reputation as one of the most skilled theatrical writers and performers in the country. Saturday Night at the Palace tackles the ugly impact of institutionalized racism during the height of apartheid, weaving the delicate and harsh realities of its three main characters together and drawing audiences deeply into a voyeuristic experience of the characters’ lives, and the fascinating and gritty themes they depict. Its impact saw the play win phenomenal local and international prestige with sold-out shows across the country in 1983, after which it travelled to Ireland and the Gothenburg Festival in Sweden before a six-week season at London’s Old Vic Theatre.
Saturday Night at the Palace won multiple DALRO, Vita, and Fleur du Cap Awards between 1982 and 1984, and now, Gauteng audiences will get to experience this exceptional work almost 41 years later.
Inspired by a headline in The Star newspaper in 1981 that read “Bizarre Attack on Roadhouse”, the play unravels the stories of two working-class white men (Vince and Forsie) who arrive at an isolated roadhouse (The Palace) at closing time. The black waiter (September) who works there is about to go on leave to visit his family whom he has not seen in over two years as they live in an apartheid-enforced homeland.
The play seduces its audience with delightful comic banter before swiftly immersing them in the shocking reality of the unfolding events. An unhinged Vince has just been dropped by his soccer team and his housemate Forsie has been given the daunting task of informing him that he has also been evicted from his commune. A volatile situation unfolds at the Roadhouse where the combination of deep insecurity and entrenched racism sees September bear the tragic brunt of Vince’s unravelling life.
Joburg Theatre Artistic Director James Ngcobo says: “While apartheid no longer exists as a political system, the existence of entrenched racism – not only in our society but globally – still inflicts ugly wounds that need to be healed and deep scars that need to be exposed. Saturday Night At The Palace is not only a powerful human story, but it is also one that still sadly remains relevant today. Much has changed but unfortunately, much has stayed the same. I hope that by bringing this iconic play back to the stage, we inspire the need for insight, change, and meaningful conversation that moves us forward. When theatre can manifest this type of engagement, we see and experience the true glory of our art and it is also a celebration of Paul Slab’s voice. A voice that has inspired and mentored the next generation of storytellers, throughout the years”
Slabolepszy graduated with a B.A. (Drama) degree from the University of Cape Town before coming a founding member of SA’s first non-racial theatre company, The Space in Cape Town (along with Athol Fugard, John Kani, Yvonne Bryceland, Jaqui Singer and Bill Flynn) in 1972. He was a founder member of the world-renowned Market Theatre Company in 1976 in Johannesburg (alongside Mannie Manim & Barney Simon).
In 1983, Paul received the Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year Award and as an actor, has appeared in well over 100 stage plays and television productions as well as 25 feature films. He became the first actor in SA to win every Best Actor Award nationwide in a single year (Vita, Fleur du Cap, and DALRO, 1993) playing Eddie in his own play The Return of Elvis du Pisanie. With over thirty-five plays to his credit, Paul is arguably (after Athol Fugard) South Africa’s foremost playwright, his work having been performed in the UK, the USA, Germany, France, Australia, Sweden, Denmark, and the Middle East and 2023, was the recipient of the 2023 Naledi Lifetime Achiever Award in recognition of his ground-breaking work and talent.
Award-winning director Albert Maritz, whose reputation for breathing new life into iconic South African plays, takes the helm on Saturday Night at the Palace. Maritz has won multiple top theatre awards for both directing and acting during his expansive career and is renowned for his work with classical theatre productions, musicals, television, and film.
To book your tickets visit:Joburg TheatreWebticketInstagram