Tomorrow is the day! It’s been over a year since I first approached South African director Thando Doni with the idea to create a NO/SA production together, and finally, it is ready to meet the world at the amazing Cradle of Creativity festival in Cape Town, the largest African theatre festival for Children & Young People!

Phefumla (To Breathe) is developed through a devised process with four young men from the township areas surrounding Cape Town. All four have been involved or affected by the gang culture that rules the streets.

Through glimpses of their childhood, fragments of good and bad memories, we slowly puzzle the pieces of their young lives together. The performance reveals both fatal choices as well as well-hidden dreams and hopes for the future.

The play is built on the individual stories of the young performers. Their personal experiences is transformed into dramatic text, visual and physical imagery and choreographies, built from their own cultural language.

Director Thando describes the performance in these words:

In xhosa, the words for breath (phefumla ) and soul (umphefumlo) are connected.

My culture says that what creates a person, what makes a person alive, is the breath. As long as the breath is in the body, the soul is present. The moment the breath stops, the soul disappears. What makes a person for us, is the soul within the breath. Us, as we are, we are breath. And breathing is supposed to be easy, even unconscious. But growing up in the townships of South Africa, with the inheritage of Apartheid and racism, it rarely feels like that. In our lives, breathing are made difficult. The space and the environment we are in, suffocates us.

We often feel like we don’t really have the space for our souls to breathe, to live, to be free.

The world of Phefumla is reality as we know it, portraying the dust that we come from. The cast are telling their stories of everyday struggle. As director of Phefumla , I have tried to find stories of how the stains of history and poverty remains with us. The suffocation lies within the fear that no matter how hard we try to move away from our labels and history, parts of it always follows us.
The marks remain. And how do we then live? When do we get to move on?
Do we ever?

So incredibly proud and excited about this collaboration, and thankful for all the wonderful people that have taken part in the process. And above all; proud of performers Ntzikayomsi Tyalavane, Eric Menyo, Vuyani Matiwanae and Bongani Dyalivana, for their incredible commitment.

The making of the impossible

The PR design, by Robert Marufu, is inspired by the gang signs and cultural language and tattoos of the different gangs.
The PR design, by Robert Marufu, is inspired by the gang signs and cultural language and tattoos of the different gangs.


As the most violent city in Africa, Cape Town struggles with entrenched gang culture within the large townships surrounding the centre of the city. For kids and young people growing up in these townships (originally restricted «non-white» areas established during apartheid), it means to grow up in underprivileged surroundings, where crime and fear has become part of everyday life. Young men are recruited into criminal gangs that rule the streets. 70% of South-African convicts are in and out of prison. For some of them, prison are safer than the streets.

From Act 2, "Son of a Gun". Director: Yasin Gyltepe
From Act 2, «Son of a Gun». Director: Yasin Gyltepe

My friends in Norway have asked me many times: «Aren’t you afraid of the inmates you work with». And yes, I were in the beginning. Before I got to know them as individuals, I must admit I was. But quite quick, that went over, and now it seems completely absurd. Yes, there is occasionly aggression, attempted manipulation and non-constructive ways of dealing with emotions. These people has learned to speak the language of the streets. But I am never afraid.

The Making of a Criminal Act 1, directed by Mariken Lauvstad
The Making of a Criminal Act 1, directed by Mariken Lauvstad

The inmates are people. Resourceful people from underprivileged backgrounds, with beautiful lives going to waste behind bars. Growing up in a neo-liberalistic society still thraumatized from apartheid, a society that distributes it’s resources in a way that doesn’t provide any social safety-net for ex-convicts. These people are husbands and wifes, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons that want’s to provide for their families. Many of them come from utter poverty. What would you do, if society had turned it’s back on you, and you had such limited chances in life? Do you have any idea how desperate you would become, after day in and day out with struggle for pure survival?

ACT 2, Director Yasin Gyltepe

Do not think that I for one single moment am defending the gang crime or the horrible offenses that some of our inmates has committed. But I do see devastating destinies, and I do see deep despair and desperation.

So what’s the point? What’s the point of coming as a privileged white person and think you can solve any of this? Believe me, I have asked myself that question over and over again. I has not been easy to gain trust, my appearance is in itself a provocation. But little by little, we succeded.

Act 1, Pollsmoor Prison. Director: Mariken Lauvstad
Act 1, Pollsmoor Prison. Director: Mariken Lauvstad

How did we succeed? I think it has something to do with awareness of the space in which we have the honour to be invited in. The decition to have the inmates’s own lifestories, dreams, hopes and fears as our main focus. Letting them write the texts and perform them onstage.

End of ACT 1
End of ACT 1

In order to be able to work with rehabilitation through deviced theatre, and create any kind of authentic work, you have to be humble. The inmates were the important ones. We have merely, hopefully, after this process opened some closed hearts in both inmates and spectators of the performance. After the Q&A’s following the performances I dear to believe that theatre and art can be part of tearing down walls and build bridges, create new meetingpoints and new political conversation. But crime is a societal responsibility just as much as an individual. And we all wonder: What now, after?



Fritt spillerom

Tre gamle damer hadde glemt hvordan eventyrene egentlig gikk… (2. klasse drama v. Gol VGS)

Det er lett å undervurdere sine elever, og holde for mye på kontrollen. Ikke minst har vi lærere ofte en agenda og en informasjonsmengde som kolliderer med elevenes naturlige behov for å utfolde seg, og for å fordøye og bearbeide fagstoff. Som teaterlærer er det viktig å gi elevene sine nok frihet, men det er ikke alltid lett å gjøre det. Hvilke kompetansemål skal man sette når man ikke har noen tydelig agenda? Hvordan skal man veie og måle en slik prosess?

I dag har vi hatt Åpen Dag på Dramalinja ved Gol Videregående. Det betyr at niendeklasse-elever fra hele Hallingdal var invitert til å besøke dramalinja vår. En slik dag gir også oss lærere en sjelden mulighet til å la kompetansemål og faglig agenda ligge, og la dramaelevene få prøve seg på avviklingen på egen hånd, mens vi trer til side, og tar styringen først dersom noen kommer skjevt ut. Elevene har fått fritt spillerom til å planlegge dagen, og beslutningene ble tatt gjennom elevdemokrati.

En smakebit på Snehvit
En smakebit på Snehvit

2. klasse bestemte selv at de ville lage en eventyrskog, en site-specific hvor de besøkende ungdomsskoleklassene fikk gå gjennom skogen og møte ulike klassiske eventyrfigurer. Figurene ble levende ved at ungdomsskoleelevene trykket på røde knapper hver karakter hadde festet til kostymet sitt. Dramaklassen satte lys selv, rigget til selv, fordelte karakterer og tekst selv og gjennomførte visningene på egen hånd.

De har fått bestemme selv. Den friheten trengs iblant. Å bare få fritt spillerom.