Interviewing Sello Maake KaNcube is an experience in and of itself. His responses are deep and poetic and hold so much gravitas, similar to his performance on stage or in front of the camera.
Of course, that’s a testament to his experience in the industry, which is underpinned by an unwavering passion for storytelling.
I caught up with him earlier this week to chat about “Nothing But the Truth” by John Kani. The award-winning production is currently on at Sandton’s Theatre on the Square.
Directed by Charmaine Weir-Smith, it sees Maake KaNcube reprise his role as Sipho Makhaya and is supported by talented actresses, Mbali Nhlapo and Ziaphora Dakile.
The play unpacks the complex family ties, especially for those who lived in exile during the apartheid era. Underpinned by politics, this is an emotionally charged offering that covers a wide gamut of emotions and conflicts.
On the pull of this play and why it should be watched, he said: “You know, to answer that question, one would need to go into the whole thing of why do we like listening to stories.
“And if you look at it, the one thing, even at the height of Covid, that gave people hope was story time.
“And that is such an intrinsic element. So for me, it’s because the story is just relevant. Also, somehow, I think it also has to do with how the story is told. I think the director I’m working with did a good job.
“We were both taking a risk on a very well-known story and it was performed by the legend himself (meaning Kani) and he is still alive. We were putting ourselves out there, you know what I mean.”
He continued: “I am now even reminded, you know Barney Simon at the Market Theatre, he once wrote an essay, and answered the question of, Why theatre?
“And he had a very beautiful preamble. It’s actually in his book if you can look for it. He said: ‘There are those who believe that we are created in the image of God. And there are those who believe that God created man because he loved listening to stories.’
“I thought that was such a nice way to explain why theatre. Because theatre is just storytelling but using different characters.
“If you look at it again from the perspective of the olden days, sitting by the fireplace, and your granny will be there or the old man telling a story.
“What you find is that it was set in the dark and the only thing you see is the light and those in the dark are listening to the story. The stage is almost the same thing.”
As I mentioned earlier, Maake KaNcube does have a way of reeling you in with words.
He also sang Kani’s praises.
“With this play, I think John Kani did remarkable work. He had actually written a piece, which became, for me, a transitional theatrical work. Part theatre and in-sync drama and that is a brilliant combination.”
On slipping into the skin of Sipho once again, I commented that it must feel like riding a bicycle as he was already familiar with the character.
He responded: “Not at all, unfortunately.”
Maake KaNcube pointed out that he was always looking for nuances to add to the character, especially with time so limited.
The “Blood & Water” actor explained: “You know, what I always say and now it’s even worse, before 1994, and I think just a little after, I don’t know when this thing changed of having a three-week rehearsal, sometimes it's a two weeks rehearsal.
“At first, the standard was four weeks. If you had five that was a luxury. Even the runs have gone shorter. Why is that? I think it needs to be looked at.
“You are trying to capture the lifetime of a character. You have got to try and draw even from yourself elements that will tie in and make every moment to be believable. There are always new things to be discovered. Finding new ways to play the character.”
He also pointed out the crucial role that a director plays.
“A director is so crucial to an actor because as an actor, you are not objective, you are subjective. So you need to have somebody who is looking at what you are also trying to achieve and sees the picture from all angles, from other characters and how all these pieces make up the picture that is the play.
“And it is always important to work with somebody who will help with the interpretation of the text, and also help to steer you and be in the position to question your innovations. In Charmaine, I found that kind of a person.”
Interestingly, he has a few TV projects on the cards and will also be revisiting “The Suit” next year.
He shared: “Next year is going to be the 30th anniversary of the play since it was first performed in 1994 at the Market Theatre. In June, we are going to premiere at Grahamstown and then come back and do it at the Theatre on the Square.”
Where: Sandton’s Theatre on the Square.
When: Currently on until October 21.
Cost: Tickets cost R200 and can be purchased at Computicket or directly at the theatre’s box office. You can also call
011 883 8606 or visit their website.
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This comic play focuses on two happily married people –but just not to each other. George and Doris meet for a romantic weekend tryst at a B&B once every year for 25 years. What follows is a snapshot of the ‘shortest long-term relationship’ ever.
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Where: Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre.
When: Currently on until October 8. Performances are on Wednesday to Friday at 8pm and on Saturday at 3pm and 8pm.
Cost: Ticket prices vary between R150 - R280. Bookings can be made through the theatre or through Webtickets.