Woza Albert!

by Percy Mtwa, Mbongeni Ngema, Barney Simon

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Woza Albert!, a play by Percy Mtwa, Mbongeni Ngema, and Barney Simon, is unique in that Percy Mtwa and Mbongeni Ngema are the sole two actors on stage. In the original script of the stage play, they are listed as the official characters, and their actual names are used in the dialogue formatting. The two actors—who also co-wrote the script—play various Black South African and White South African characters that make up the apartheid-era society.

The most clearly defined main character is Morena, who is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and is a black man. The religious black South Africans regard him as the Second Coming of Christ and believe he will lead a political and spiritual revolution in the country. The protagonists are the white Calvinist members of the government who implement apartheid.

One of the characters played by Percy is a police officer. He represents the regime, which implements the strict codes of the apartheid system. The play opens up with Percy quickly transforming into a police officer and asking Mbongeni to show his "pass." The pass in question is similar to the star badges that Jews wore in the ghettos during Nazi rule in Germany. The pass is a way to identify, compartmentalize, and control the population, and Percy's police officer character represents the enforcer of that system's oppressive laws.

In the second scene, it is Mbongeni who plays an authority figure. The setting is a prison filled with Black South African inmates. In the beginning, the two actors play prisoners, but Mbongeni suddenly becomes a prison warden or inspector. This sudden change in characters provides a sharp observation of Black South Africans who are allied with the powerful apartheid regime. Although it is clear that Mbongeni is playing a white official, the audience sees a black actor yelling instructions at Percy, who is a prisoner. The visual contrasts and juxtapositions themselves create subtexts and commentary. Perhaps this is why the playwrights decided that Percy and Mbongeni play both white and black characters.

Another important character is Auntie Dudu, who is an old impoverished woman played by Mbongeni. She is scavenging for food in a trash bin. She displays optimism about Morena and what changes he will bring to South Africa. Auntie Dudu believes that Morena will bring abundance and wealth to the nation after destroying apartheid.

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