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Kids theatre company with a magnetic story

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Kids theatre company with a magnetic story

35+ original productions, SA’s first baby play and world tours

Last updated: Monday, 22 April 2024 

In its 37 years of existence, Magnet Theatre, the little theatre company at the Old Match Factory in Woodstock, has helped 37 first-generation university students get to UCT; created almost 100 graduates through their development programmes; produced over 35 original award-winning productions; and toured 18 countries. Here’s the heartwarming story of Magnet Theatre’s social impact.

37 YEARS OF AWARD-WINNING THEATRE 

Founded by Mark Fleishman, Jennie Reznek, and Mandla Mbothwe, Magnet Theatre has created a body of work that speaks to the realities of South Africa for nearly 4 decades. All while providing poor kids and those from outside the urban centre access to tertiary education and employment in theatres.

“My passion for the theatre’s mission emerges from the possibilities that young people can change as a result of Magnet Theatre’s guidance, even if they come from a difficult background,” says Jennie Reznek. 

The aim of the company is not only to train theatre-makers, but also to grow local South African stories, to create indigenous theatre for everyone, and to take it to young audiences across the country. They’ve won Fleur Du Cap awards for shows like Every Year, Every Day, I Am Walking. KNOCK!, a children’s production, was nominated for a Dora Award in Toronto, Canada.


Magnet Theatre's mission is to create an original repertoire of South African productions, inspirational performance events, and effective educational processes. Image: Rob Keith

100 GRADUATES CREATED

Since 2008, the theatre has had close to 100 graduates. There are also internships for theatre making, arts administration, community arts facilitation, and technical theatre skills. The kids come from areas like Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Eerste Rivier, and Nyanga. 

Children growing up in these areas often don’t have access to the creative arts. “The arts are not visible at all in our schools. Seeing how the children respond to creative arts has been mind-blowing. I’ve seen so many changes in their behaviour,” says Kay-Lee Mabutho, a 2011 Magnet Theatre graduate. 

And they don’t just learn theatre skills. “The principle and discipline I have learned has helped me a lot, and would not have happened without the training from Magnet Theatre,” says Abigail Mei. 

Gabriel Buis, a 2003 graduate, says: “I am more open and freer to communicate with others and very confident now. I feel like Magnet Theatre gave me a chance to put myself out there.” 

From all of their youth development programmes, Magnet Theatre has facilitated access for 37 first-generation university students: 27 have graduated (eight with postgraduate qualifications) and four are currently studying full-time. 


Magnet Theatre’s work is highly regarded by the press, audiences, and award structures in South Africa. Image: Mark Wessels

MAGNET THEATRE’S OUTREACH PROGRAMMES

Magnet Theatre’s youth development programmes are a stepping stone for marginalised youth, giving kids the chance (and confidence) to learn with two-year theatre bridging programmes. 

“Magnet has shaped me, my creative world and built my confidence especially when I have to go for auditions. People always ask where I trained, because they are impressed,” says Siphesande Mkokose. 

One of these programmes is the Culture Gangs Programme. During the programme, Magnet Theatre works with children and unemployed youth to “create gangs of youth who are committed to culture, not crime.” It runs monthly workshops, theatre visits, holiday programmes and provides further education opportunities. 

At the end of the programme, a showcase takes place for the kids to show off their skills. This happens every November.


The Culture Gangs program also includes an awards ceremony. Image: Rob Keith 

THEATRE SHOWS FOR KIDS AND ADULTS

Much of Magnet Theatre’s performances focus on social issues. Every Year, Every Day, I Am Walking explores the refugee experience in South Africa. The story of the Gugulethu 7 (seven Umkhonto weSizwe members who were ambushed and killed by the South African apartheid security forces), is told through the well-known production G7 Okwe-Bokhwe.

There are enchanting shows for children too. SCOOP: Kitchen Play for Moms and Babes is the first ever South African baby play for mothers and babies. STONE PLAY, a play for three to eight-year-olds that traces the beginnings of humankind, is created with the graduates of the Fulltime Training and Job Creation Programme. These shows run in May and April.


In 2013, Magnet Theatre initiated a creative focus on “Early Years” performance and training, developing performances for under seven-year-olds. Image: Phakamani Waka

WHERE TO GET MAGNET THEATRE TICKETS

They’ve toured countries like Italy and Germany, and won numerous awards for shows such as Every Year, Every Day, I Am Walking, their longest-running production that’s toured 18 countries. 

It’s also collaborated with renowned local and international performing arts companies like JazzArt Dance Company, The Baxter Theatre, Cape Town Opera, and Australia’s Southern Edge Arts. 

All while being proudly local: It offers performances in isiXhosa, Afrikaans, and English. 

Most performances take place at Magnet Theatre, but you can also catch some at venues like the Baxter Theatre and the University of Cape Town. See what’s currently on and where to buy tickets via the Magnet Theatre website.


The productions are designed to not only entertain and educate, but to involve audience members and encourage participation and reflection. Image: Mark Wessels

VISIT MAGNET THEATRE

Find it: Unit 1, Old Match Factory, Lower Main Road, Observatory
Book: Via the Magnet Theatre website
Contact on: 021 448 3436, admin@magnettheatre.co.za, @magnet_theatre

By Khadeeja Adams 

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