A Woman in Waiting

Previewed 11 June 2001, Opened 12 June 2001, Closed 30 June 2001 at the Ambassadors Theatre - late evening performances

Thembi Mtshali stars in A Woman in Waiting in London - a pwerful and moving story of one woman's journey through a system that sought to strip her of her dignity and crush her spirit

You have to speak out or your heart will burst. In a unique and moving tribute to the South African spirit, this auto-biographical story tells the story of a Zulu girl who spent her childhood apart from her parents, only to become a mother herself whilst still a teenager.

Thembi Mtshali bears witness to the pain and joy of life in South Africa, of the night raids in the townships, the massacre of the children in Soweto in 1976 and her eventual escape. Her story is an honest and unique portrayal of life for women who survived almost half a century in a system that sought to rob them of their humanity.

Performed by Thembi Mtshali. Conceived and written by Yael Farber and Thembi Mtshali. Directed by Yael Farber.

"An accomplished performer, Mtshali weaves song and dance into her memories, although theatrically the staging is unremarkable. It’s at its strongest when Mtshali is detailing the pain of missing her own daughter growing up while she’s stuck with 'dirty dishes and other people’s children', and at its least satisfying when recounting her stage career, which has a self-congratulatory air (though, I suppose, who can blame her?). Just as you’re left wanting to know something about the men in Mtshali’s life, a little more political detail and a tighter structure to the piece would not go amiss either. But Mtshali remains a likeable, dignified presence and you end up believing her when she says: 'We must speak our hearts or our hearts will burst.'" The Times

"A Woman in Waiting opens with Thembi Mtshali curled up in a box. The hour of birth is near, and a few moments later she crawls out into a world she never made - more specifically, into the King Edward Hospital for non-Europeans somewhere in South Africa. Mtshali was born in 1949, and in the first sequence of her autobiographical one-woman show we watch a small child coming to self-awareness in the era of apartheid. Her mother had gone to work in Durban, and initially she was brought up by her grandparents. The innocent years are beautifully sketched in... We fast-forward to Mtshali as a young woman. She has a child herself, a daughter. At first she brings her to work; then she endures the anguish of having to leave her at home, scarcely seeing her while she devotes herself to the children of white employers. Eventually she finds freedom and fulfilment through her acting skills. She becomes one of South Africa's most popular entertainers, the star of Ipi Tombi and many other shows - and in its final stages the story dwindles into a conventional celebration of showbiz success. Or would, if there weren't the wider story of the struggle against apartheid in the background to give it depth. Mtshali's gifts, including a marked gift for comic mime, are on full display in the show. So is the warmth of her personality; and although the world, in the era of President Mbeki, has moved on, the lessons she has to teach are ones that should never be forgotten." The Sunday Telegraph

A Woman in Waiting in London at the Ambassadors Theatre previewed from 11 June 2001, opened on 12 June 2001 and closed on 30 June 2001