The Market Theatre Laboratory turns 30

“The Market Theatre Laboratory celebrates 30 years of creating space for subaltern experiences, voices and identities with a 7-week long festival at the Market Theatre Square in Newtown”

The Market Theatre Laboratory (known as the Market Lab) is the brainchild of Barney Simon, the co-founder of the Market Theatre. The idea for the Market Lab was born in response to the needs of the community theatre sector for high quality training, and to provide a seedbed for the creation of new South African plays. John Kani, then Associate Artistic Director of the Market Theatre, raised funds from the Rockefeller Foundation, and in October 1989, the Market Lab was born.

The Market Lab opened in a small warehouse under the highway in Goch Street, Newtown, where professional tutors ran practical as well as theoretical courses for aspiring actors. The Market Lab quickly became a platform for young artists to meet and engage creatively and collaboratively, first in apartheid South Africa and later in the new democracy. With the success of the drama school, other programmes were initiated, including the community theatre programmes which have resulted in the annual Community Theatre Festival and Zwakala Festival, which showcase performances from around the country and which have unearthed hidden theatrical talents.

Today, the Market Lab stands strong in its fourth location at The Market Theatre Square in Newtown and has built on its solid reputation as a centre for artistic excellence with many of its graduates working in the industry as actors, writers, directors and theatre-makers. 30 years on, The Market Lab continues to create and embody an inspiring, safe environment, so that students, theatre practitioners, collaborators and audiences can flourish and grow through learning, exchange, experimentation, research and making; with an emphasis on creating space for subaltern experiences, voices and identities.

To celebrate the success, resilience and legacy of this institution, the Market Lab will be hosting several weeks of celebratory events, kicking off with the opening of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros, performed by Kwasha! Theatre Company, on 8 October. Following the run of this production, a festival of events that celebrates the history of the Lab and its multiple contributors and alumni will continue until 24 November.

Festival events will include one off showings of successful alumni productions, improv battles between the original theatre sports teams and the Market Lab’s current students, storytelling evenings with members of the Market Lab sharing anecdotes of their experiences, panel discussions and an exhibition.

The exhibition will tell the story of 30 years of the Lab through photos, videos, maps, an SA history timeline and a collection of stories. An interactive element of the exhibition will also help create a larger archive of stories of the Lab where members of the public, alumni and mentors can share their Lab experiences to be archived for future reference. There will also be guided walk-throughs of the exhibition led by key figures in the Lab’s history.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to celebrate this achievement with a festival of this scale and hope that while we reflect on the history of the Market Lab, we can be inspired to continue the vision and reimagine the future of this continually important artistic space“, says Clara Vaughan, Head of the Market Lab.

The 30 Years of the Lab festival celebration is presented with generous support from the Barney Simon Trust and the Market Theatre Foundation. Full programme available below.

Tickets for all events available via Webtickets or from 5 October.



8 - 21 October

Ionesco’s Rhinoceros

Performed by Kwasha Theatre Company

Ticketed event

29 October, 5 November & 15 November at 8pm

Improv Play Off: Old versus New

The original theatre sports team of the Market Lab go head to head against the current Market Lab students. Players include Toni Morkel, Mncedisi Shabangu, Vanessa Cooke, Bongani Gumede, Phillippa Yaa De Villiers, Craig Friemont, Errol Ndotho and more.

R 30 for students, R 50 for general public

27 October at 3pm


Starring Mncedisi Shabangu (alumni) and Xolile Gama

Tickets are R 100

2 November at 3pm

Winner of the Hillbrow Inner City Schools Festival.

Each year, the Market Lab 2nd Years mentor productions for the inner-city schools festival. This event honours the tradition of the Market Theatre Lab’s developmental theatre engagement.

Tickets are R 100

2 November at 8pm


Starring Jake Nathane and Lethabo Bereng (alumni)

Tickets are R 100

3 November at 3pm


Written and Directed by Phillip Dikotla (alumni)

Winner of the Olive Schreiner Prize, 2012

Tickets are R 100

9 November at 8pm


In the spirit of providing an accessible platform for artists to create and present new work, and in the spirit of Market Lab ‘open classes’, this evening is a presentation of new performances by artists at any level of experience.

Tickets are free/pay what you can

10 November at 3pm


Written and performed by Katlego Letsholonyana (alumni). Directed by Jaques Da Silva (mentor)

Tickets are R 100

16 November at 8pm

TEXT ME WHEN YOU ARRIVE (work in progress)

Devised and performed by Aaliyah Matintela, Thuli Nduvane, Sebahle Mangena (all alumni). Directed by Momo Matsunyane and Sinenhlanhla Mgeyi (alumni)

Tickets are R 50

23 November at 8pm


In the tradition of open classes and showcases, this evening presents Market Lab alumni coming back together for a day to make and present work.

Tickets are free/ Pay what you can


1 November at 8pm

Storytellers Evening with Alumni Standard Bank Young Artist Winners

With Mncedisi Shabangu, Prince Lamla and Monageng Motshabi


8 November at 8pm

A storytellers evening with Dan and Van

A night of anecdotes from the Lab’s long serving educators Vanessa Cooke and Dan Robbertse. Hosted by alumni & storyteller Baeletsi Tsatsi


16 November at 2pm

Talk / Panel Discussion: What is community theatre in 2019 South Africa?

A free participatory event

17 November at 2pm

Talk / Panel Discussion: What is the purpose of a Creative Lab?

A free participatory event


Exhibition opens at 11am on 26 October and runs until 6pm on 24 November.

Walkthrough dates to be confirmed.

For further information please contact:

Lusanda Zokufa, Senior Publicist Market Theatre Foundation 011 832 1641 ext 202 or 072 367 7867

Thozama Busakwe



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