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Sophiatown is a play with music by The Junction Avenue Theatre Company. An influential workshop play about the famous freehold area in Johannesburg, devised and performed by director Malcolm Purkey and the cast. Based on a true prank in which Nat Nakasa and Lewis Nkosi had advertised in Drum magazine for a Jewish girl to come and stay with them in Sophiatown. The play deals with the “what if” of this situation, and setting it in a household representative of a spectrum of township dwellers, a microcosm of the Sophiatown milieu of the 1950s as seen from the perspective of the 1980s.

The original text

First published as a single text in 1994, then republished with other plays in 1995.**[Kruger 1999: 96-7; JATC, 1995] Published by David Philip and also in At The Junction by Wits University Press. Also published as Sophiatown! in Drama for a New South Africa by Indiana University Press.

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1986: First performed at the Market Theatre, Johannesburg on 18 February 1986, a Junction Avenue Theatre Company production directed by Malcolm Purkey, with sets designed by Sarah Roberts and William Kentridge and poster by Kentridge, starring Ramolao Makhene, Arthur Molepo, Megan Kruskal and Minky Schlesinger. The play quickly transferred to the Grahamstown Festival and went on to a phenomenally successful run over the next number of years, winning numerous awards and touring internationally. Doreen Mazibuko also joined the production, as well as Gladys Mothlale and Madidi Maphoto. Siphiwe Khumalo.

1994: In a production at the Market Theatre Jakes was played by Patrick Shai, also starring Yael Farber, Ramolao Makhene and Arthur Molepo as Mingus.

1996: Rhodes University Drama Department production directed by Andrew Buckland, in May 1996, including Yael de Jong as Ruth and Shane Manilal as Mingus.

2016: A new production staged at the Market Theatre opening 30 March, directed by Malcolm Purkey. Sarah Roberts designed the costumes and sets for this production and Arthur Molepo is the musical director.


Sophiatown theatre programme, 1986.

Photograph (1986 production) held by NELM: NELM Location: Photograph collection [Collection: JUNCTION AVENUE THEATRE COMPANY]: 2016. 293. 6.

Sunday Times, 17 April 1994.

Financial Mail, 24 March 2016.

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