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Fred Khumalo’s Touch My Blood Adapted for the Stage, Now On at the Market Theatre

Touch My Blood PlayTouch My BloodFred KhumaloFred Khumalo’s riveting memoir, Touch My Blood, has been adapted for the stage by James Ngcobo, the actor and director perhaps best known for playing the part of Mojo Khumalo in the SABC2 series Stokvel.

The play is now on at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, running most nights except Mondays, with Bheki Mkhwane in the lead role as a young Fred Khumalo charting a dangerous path out of township life.

Says Ngcobo of his play:

“This is a tale of a young man growing up in Hammersdale Township, just outside Durban. Through him we are taken back to the vibrant eighties – when every young man worth his salt had the afro, the bell-bottomed trousers and platform shoes that went alongside a time of fear and madness, and the division (both political and racial) that shook that part of Durban. Touch My Blood allows you to heal; it rewinds the tape, allowing you to witness some of what happened in South Africa. You’re not only left with anger, but shake your head and laugh.”

They play debuted at this year’s Grahamstown Festival, where journalist Robert McKay caught up with the director:

ADAPTING a book for the stage is a difficult task that often requires some brutal editing. It’s a task made all the more difficult when that book is an autobiography.

But such was the challenge taken up by actor-turned-director James Ngcobo when he decided to dramatise Touch My Blood — journalist Fred Khumalo’s memoir about growing up in a Durban township in the 1980s against a backdrop of political turmoil and petty gangsterism.

“When you’re doing an autobiography, what you’re talking about is a true story,” explains Ngcobo in his distinctive raspy voice .
“It’s someone’s memory, so you have to remind yourself that every moment in the book is there because it meant something in his life. I couldn’t put everything on stage because we’d end up with a six- hour play.”

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