Durban, don't miss Neil Coppin's hardhitting production of ULWEMBU, at the KZNSA on Friday 22 April, 7PM

  • 21 April 2016
  • General, KZNSA

ULWEMBU is a collaborative documentary-theatre project that brings together theatre-makers, citizens and civil society to engage the interface between street-level drug-addiction, policing and mental health in the city of Durban, South Africa. The play’s intention is to make visible the invisible life worlds of vulnerable people in Durban and its surrounds, as well as create new social learning opportunities for the Police, Department of Health, NGOs, families of users, and other groups. 

Admission is free and seats are limited.

Please RSVP through the gallery at 



The presentation of Ulwembu is part of the Urban Futures Centre’s contribution to the public programme accompanying APPROACH: Cultural Production in a Shifting Social Context, a new exhibition on the KZNSA's Social Art Programme funded by the National Lotteries Commission.

More about ULWEMBU
Over the course of 2015 and 2016, a dynamic team of story-tellers, playwrights, theatre-makers, academics and researchers set about exploring the Whoonga (Low grade heroin) crises currently plaguing KZN communities.

The result of the two year research/play-making process is an immersive and powerful 60-minute theatre production titled ULWEMBU (isiZulu for Spider web) will be presented as part of the public programme for APPROACH: Cultural Production in a Shifting Social Context at the KZNSA.

The creative team consists of award-winning playwright and director Neil Coppen, local actress Mpume Mtombeni, Kwa-Mashu based community-theatre group: The Big Brotherhood and educational sociologist Dylan McGarry.

ULWEMBU, which has been described as ‘poignant’ and “essential” theatre, affords audiences the opportunity to walk in the shoes of misunderstood others: be it users, dealers, police-officers, social-workers or parents of drug users.

With Whoonga having a catastrophic effect on communities in Durban and South Africa, the problem needs to be addressed out in the open and organisers believe that ULWEMBU provides the crucial place to achieve this, engaging the empathy, intellects and imaginations of audiences by allowing them to follow a series of characters realities without judgment or prejudice.

To create the script, the group set about recording the oral histories and testimonials of a cross- section of Durbanites before transforming these into an unforgettable theatrical experience which aims to change the way we see and understand each other as citizens.

“If we want to respond to drugs humanely and comprehensively in Durban” explains McGarry, “we need to first understand the interwoven and deeply connected nature of this problem. Our production strives to give this pressing issue, a more human face.”

But the production team are quick to point out that ULWEMBU is far from a precautionary “Don’t Do Drugs” play. 

“With this production” urges Coppen, “we wanted to create an engrossing theatrical journey for local audiences, allowing the power of the medium and the characters dilemmas, to speak to audiences and in the process reveal the many layers, myths and facets behind the crises.”

The ULWEMBU team encourages police officers, social workers, public health practitioners, families affected by drug use, schools, and other concerned members of the public to come watch the play, and participate in the post-show exchange.

For more information please visit the ULWEMBU

ULWEMBU has been made possible through the generous support of the Urban Futures Centre, Twist Theatre Development Project (Twist Durban), Think Theatre, The Playhouse Company and the generous constant support of the Denis Hurley Centre.

This project is primarily funded by the OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATIONS, as well as TWIST and the Urban Futures Centre.

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