Magnet Theatre

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Magnet Theatre

History and aims

Magnet Theatre was formed in 1987 by Mark Fleishman and Jennie Reznek to produce Jennie Reznek's first one-person performance, Cheap Flights . It re-emerged in 1991 to produce The Show's Not Over 'Till The Fat Lady Sings in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Grahamstown, Pietermaritzburg, Windhoek, London, Brighton, Manchester, Glastonbury, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Hong Kong and Stockholm.

In 1994, after touring for two and a half years, they returned to South Africa with the following aims:

• To continue to develop Jennie Reznek's own unique physical performance style through the continued creation of small scale productions • To collaborate with other practitioners on larger scale productions which would encompass a broader socio-political vision • To develop a profile for the company as an ongoing organisation with a specific artistic vision • To develop the language of physical theatre in South Africa as a means to overcoming vast language diversities.

The company

The theatrical works

Since 1994 they have continued to contribute to SA theatre with a variety of works. These include: In collaboration with Jazzart Dance Theatre, they created 7 new works - Medea (1994), The Sun, the Moon, and the Knife (1995), SOE LOEP ONS ... NOU NOG! (1996), VLAM 2 (1999), COLD WATERS/ THIRSTY SOULS (2002), RAIN IN A DEAD MAN’S FOOTPRINTS (2004/2005) and CARGO (2007); • Adapted and staged Herman Melville’s epic novel - MOBY DICK (1994); • Created 2 new Jennie Reznek-inspired performance pieces - I DO X 22 (1997) and 53 DEGREES (2002); • Created 3 outdoor theatre productions - PUMP (1998/9), ONNEST'BO (2002/3/5/6) and DIE VREEMDELING (2010); • Created a large-scale outdoor performance event, VLAM 1 (1999), to celebrate the dawn of the new millennium in collaboration with Jazzart and Southern Edge Arts of Western Australia; • Adapted the stories of the acclaimed Mozambican author, Mia Couto, for the stage as VOICES MADE NIGHT (2000/1 and 2007); • Collaborated with Theatre Spirale (Geneva) on a South African version of the Swiss play The Fire Raisers by Max Frisch (2004), combining seven South African actors with actors from Mali, Indonesia and Switzerland; • Created Every Year, Every Day, I Am Walking (2006)

Die Vreemdeling (Magnet Theatre, 2010);

Kragbox (Magnet Theatre, 2010);

Four of Magnet Theatre's productions have been based on literary works: Melville’s Moby Dick (1993), Dürenmatt’s The Visit (1994 & 2018), Mia Couto’s Voices Made Night (2001/12/13) and Max Frisch’s The Fire Raisers (2004).

Production History 1987 Cheap Flights Jennie Reznek’s one-woman show that sparked the creation of Magnet Theatre. A woman is alone, trapped in a one room flat. She dreams of escape in flights of fantasy. 1991-93 The Show’s Not Over Till The Fat Lady Sings Reznek’s one-woman piece about Belinda, a woman weighted to the earth but who dreams of flying. 1993-94 Moby Dick An imaginative theatrical take on the classic novel, melding its grand and gothic language with a rich physical imagery. The production featured Nicholas Ashby, Jamie Bartlett, Leslie Fong, and Anna-Mart van der Merwe. 1994-96 Medea The story of two cultures incomprehensible to each other, Fleishman’s Medea was a physical and linguistic adaptation of the Greek myth into Tamil, Tsotsitaal, Kaapse Taal, Zulu, Latin, English, Afrikaans and Xhosa. Performed by Bo Peterson, Kurt Wustmann, Jay Pather, Dawn Langdown, and Heinrich Reisenhofer. 1995 The Sun, The Moon, and The Knife A performance piece based on versions of /Xam poems from the Bleek and Lloyd collection. Directed by Fleishman, with choreography by Alfred Hinkel and performed by Dawn Langdown and the Jazzart Dance Theatre. 1996-97 Soe Loep Ons…Nou Nog! [This is how we Walk...Still!] Dawn Langdown’s embodied stories of Cape Town’s coloured community, at once disempowered and dispossessed yet filled with the vibrant song and dance of the Kaapse Klopse. 1997-98 ‘I Do’ x 22 Based on the true-life story of the most married woman in the world. Performed by Jennie Reznek, Mark Hoeben and Kurt Wustmann (Cape Town)/Joshua Lindberg (Johannesburg). 1998 Pump A travelling piece about water as a precious resource that toured schools, prisons, community centres, beaches and streets throughout the Western Cape. Performed by Lara Bye, Gaeten Schmidt, Thembani Luzipho, Craig Leo, Alan Committee, Mandla Mbothwe, Warona Seane, and Makhaola Ndebele. 1999 Vlam I [Flame 1] A collaboration between Southern Edge Arts (Western Australia), Jazzart Dance Theatre and Magnet Theatre, Vlam [Flame] was part of the Millennium Celebration in Cape Town. A symbol of transformation at once terrible and devouring, and purifying and restorative, Vlam was performed by 500 community arts practitioners. 1999-2000 Vlam II [Flame II] A Jazzart Dance Theatre/Magnet Theatre reprise of Vlam I, this time about revelation and resurrection, death and rebirth. Performed by Celeste Botha, Ondine Bello, Sbonakaliso Ndaba, Hurgen Cornelson, Megan Erasmus, Rich Handler, Charles Maema, Amanda Lane, Thembanio Lusipho, Philani Mbana, Vumile Sitikosi, with choreography by Sifiso Kweyama, Sbonakaliso Ndaba and Alfred Hinkel. Directed by Mark Fleishman and Jennie Reznek. 2001 Cold Waters/Thirsty Souls The fifth collaboration between the Jazzart Dance Theatre and Magnet Theatre; a lively interplay between structure and improvisation, between form and freedom. With original music by Jane Rademeyer and James Webb, performed by the Jazzart dance company. 2000-01/20012-13 Voices Made Night An evocative assemblage of interpretations of short stories by Mozambican author Mia Couta, whose writing is rooted in the strange and often bizarre realities of life in contemporary African societies in transition. The original cast in 2000 were Gosekwang Poonyane, Rehane Abrahams, Mandla Mbothwe and Jane Rademeyer; while the 2012 cast included Jennie Reznek, Faniswa Yisa, Mfundo Tshazibane, Dann-Jaques Mouton, Richard September, Thando Doni and Chiminae Ball.

2002-3 53 Degrees A three-phase event including an installation, a performance and an exhibition, around the theme of Robben Island. The productionpositioned personal narratives against the context of the broader liberation struggle in South Africa: a mother tries to make a piece of theatre after years of absence from the stage; Florrie Berndt is trapped in an icy cold current as she attempts the first ever Robben Island swim; and Makana / Nxele / Links, a 19th century Xhosa prophet, tries to free his people from the tyranny of British rule by taking a giant leap across an abyss. Performed by Jennie Reznek, Gosekwang Poonyane and David Johnson (Grahamstown) / Gary Naidoo (Cape Town). 2002/3/5/6 Onnest’bo [Upside Down] Timed to mark the return of the District Six land deeds in 2002 to those forcibly removed from the area by the apartheid government, this collaboration with the District Six Museum explored the legacy and impact of forced removals. This production included an educational curriculum and inter-generational workshops between original inhabitants of District Six and high school learners. Performed by Thami Mbongo, Jennie Reznek, Lulama Masimini, Craig Leo, Charles Tertiens, Amrain Ismail-Essop, Riana Alfreds and Wiseman Sithole.

2004-5 Rain in a Dead Man’s Footprints Based on /Xam stories from the Bleek and Lloyd collection, a Magnet/Jazzart collaboration that re-imagined South Africa’s history through /Xam understandings of time, futhering the explorations they began with The Sun, The Moon, and the Knife (1995). This was Neo Muyanga’s first project with Magnet.

2004 The Fire Raisers The Fire Raisers was a collaboration between Swiss troupe Spirale and Magnet Theatre. It brought together Max Frisch's witty text with a Brechtian chorus sung under the musical direction of Neo Muyanga, and explored the consequences that face a world in which the gap between rich and poor widens daily. With Jamie Bartlett, Jennie Reznek, Hamadoun Kassogue, Ivan Abrahams, Patrick Mohr, Sizwe Msutu, Mas Soegeng, Faniswa Yisa, Bheki Ndlovu and Gary Naidoo.

2007 Cargo A performative engagement with the archive of slavery at the Cape, Cargo was a collaboration between Magnet and Jazzart featuring Jennie Reznek, Faniswa Yisa, the Jazzart Dance Theatre as well as members of the Jazzart Dance Theatre Young Adult Training and Job Creation Programme.

2006 - present Every Year, Every Day, I Am Walking A piece about dislocation and about what home means, Every Year, Every Day, I Am Walking has become Magnet’s most performed piece, tracing the story of a young girl who brutally and irrevocably loses her family and home and is then forced to journey to a strange new country through many dangers and uncertainties. Featuring Reznek and Yisa, both in multiple roles.

2008 Isivuno Sama Phupha [Harvest of Dreams] Under Mandla Mbothwe’s direction, this production was part of Magnet Theatre’s Community Groups Intervention. It was Mbothwe’s first major production for the company, weaving a lyrical story between places and spaces; between waking-time and sleeping-time.

2009 Ingcwaba Lendoda Lise Cankwe Ndlela [The Grave of the Man Lies Next to the Road] A stirring, vibrant multi-media work around the African notion of home, associated with the loss of the umbilical cord, as well as graves, histories, clans, and ancestors. Ingcwaba lendoda explored the physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual dislocation of young black South Africans whose origins lie a long way down the N2 in the Eastern Cape. Directed by Mandla Mbothwe, with choreography by Xolani Rani and choral direction by Nolufefe Mtswabe, featuring Faniswa Yisa and trainees from the Magnet Theatre full-time training programme.

2010 Inxeba Lomphilisi – Wound of a Healer A healer and her helper, Khehle, wander along the N2. Between sunset and sunrise they listens to the stories of the dead and those that have disappeared along the road, trying to help them find peace. Directed by Mandla Mbothwe, featuring Faniswa Yisa, Asanda Rilityana, Thando Doni, Luvo Tamba, Thumeka Mzayiya, as well as Magnet Theatre trainees: Aphiwe Menziwa, Nolufefe Ntshuntshe , Thembekile Komani and the Drummer, Mzimkhulu Mtelekiso.

2011 The Children and the Bees Directed by Mark Fleishman, assisted by Frances Marek, Alex Halligey and Faniswa Yisa, The Children and the Bees was based on the Czech folktale, Brundibár, which was performed 55 times in the Nazi ghetto, Terezín, before its composer and many of the children in the cast were transported to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. The piece, performed as a companion piece to the opera Brundibár at Artscape Theatre in July 2011, explored themes of displacement, migration and refugees, drawing on the testimonies of child survivors from across the world to weave together magic fairytales and grim reality.

2010; 2012 Autopsy A detective thriller and multi-media feast featuring Faniswa Yisa as a high-heeled forensic investigator who excavates the current African landscape, unearthing shady deals, unsolved murders, Chinese landlords, traditional healers, shebeen owners, and wealthy oil magnates. Directed by Mark Fleishman with Jennie Reznek, Faniswa Yisa, Dann-Jaques Mouton and Mandisi Sindo, with video images by Sanjin Muftic.

2010-11 Die Vreemdeling [The Stranger] Devised by the cast from a short story by Magnet administrator Frances Marek, Die Vreemdeling explores the impact of a stranger on an insulated and fearful community. Directed by Mark Fleishman and Frances Marek, featuring David Johnson, Ephraim Gordon and Dann-Jaques Mouton.

2012 running with goldfish and gift wrapping the sea Physically inventive and sparkling with playful humour, this was the first production of the new cohort of trainees in the Magnet Theatre Fulltime Training Programme. The simple, practical problems of packing up and unpacking, of freezing and melting, became the starting points for this exploration of the wide-ranging experiences of a group of young South Africans. Directed by Brink Scholtz with The Magnet Theatre trainees: Asiphe Lile, Babalwa Makwetu, Bulelani Mabutyana, Dustin Beck, Jeoffrey Makobela, Lubabalo Nontwana, Marlon Swarts, Musa Silwana, Nomzamo Kula, Rozanne Holland, Siphenathi Mayekiso, Sisipho Nbopa, Sivuyile Dunjwa, Thukelo Maka, Thulisa Mayalo, Yonela Sithela, Stacy Malgarte, Eddie Newman and Lwando Sindaphi.

2012 Kragbox [Power Box] Kragbox turns the spotlight on a part of life in contemporary Cape Town; on those people that live in the shadows, on the dark forgotten corners of the Cape Flats. The piece explores notions of male identity and masculinity in communities dominated by gangsterism and violence. It tells a story of friendship, loyalty, betrayal, and sacrifice, of poverty and violence and the struggle to survive. Originally created by Frances Marek, with Dann-Jaques Mouton and Ephraim Gordon

2013 Beyond Vice A collaboration with practice based research project organised by Ola Johannsson from Sweden, Beyond Vice played at the Uppsala Stadsteater. The play explores questions of gender inequality as they play out within the dramatically different contexts of Sweden and South Africa, juxtaposing two narratives: in Uppsala a pompous Swedish professor falls in love with his ambitious South African student; while in Cape Town a street-smart South African man falls in love with a naive Swedish aid worker. In a playfully provocative manner, these relationships offer an intimate and often uncomfortable view into the complex power relations of gender, but also of cross-cultural engagement. Directed by Brink Scholtz, the play was performed by Chiminae Ball, Björn Dahlman, Lise Edman, Dann-Jacques Mouton, Asanda Rilityana, and Helena Sandström

2014 Heart of Redness A collaboration with the Cape Town Opera Company, based on Zakes Mda’s novel, with music by Neo Muyanga.  

The Magnet Theatre Educational Trust

The Magnet Theatre Educational Trust for "Community Groups Intervention": The objective of this project is to strengthen community theatre as an important part of the theatrical landscape in South Africa.For more information go to

The Magnet Theatre - Old Match Factory

In the early 1920s the Lion Match Company built a group of very large industrial buildings in Lower Main Road, Observatory, all in the grand and imposing style of the times. These happily survived the century and have now been converted to provide an ultra moderm office complex of 11 500m2.

In 2010 Magnet Theatre acquired a space in this complex to serve as their home base theatere. They worked there for the year then opened the space formally as a The Magnet Theatre - Old Match Factory on January 26th 2011 with their production of Die Vreemdeling.


"Magnet Theatre, Cape Town", South African History Online (SAHO)[1]

Yvette Hutchison. 2015. "Contemporary Collaborators II: Magnet Theatre" in Martin Middeke and Peter Paul Schnierer (editors). 2015. The Methuen Drama Guide to Contemporary South African Theatre. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Megan Lewis and Anton Krueger (eds.) 2016. Magnet Theatre: Three Decades of Making Space. Pretoria: Intellect Ltd

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