Lalela Learners Dazzled at the 14th Shakespeare Schools Festival South Africa

May 29, 2024

Above: Our Tandi preparing Lalela learners with make-up ahead of their performance.

The 14th Shakespeare Schools Festival South Africa (SSFSA) at the Star Theatre in the District Six Homecoming Centre, Cape Town, was an unforgettable celebration of talent with Lalela’s learners taking centre stage, dazzling the audience with their performance of Macbeth after months of rehearsals.

Lalela has a long history with SSFSA, having participated in 11 productions over as many years. This year’s production of Macbeth was particularly special since Macbeth was the Shakespeare play that Lalela presented the first time our learners participated in the festival.

The festival provides a unique platform for our learners, many of whom have gained confidence and affirmed their self-belief through their involvement in the production.

Lalela Executive Director Firdous Hendricks explained the transformative impact of the festival on participating Lalela learners: “We’ve had many students inspired by their participation in the Shakespeare Schools Festival pursue a career in theatre or aspects related to what they learned during the production. This year, key production roles are filled by Lalela alumni. Aphendule Sixishe, a Lalela alumnus who previously participated in the production two or three times, is now directing it. Another Lalela alumnus is handling sound and lighting, and another is the stage manager. They have taken on these roles as volunteers. Participation in the production greatly boosts learners’ confidence. Our lead actor this year participated in our leadership programme last year and was part of the cast, and this year she has the lead role. Additionally, all the show’s props were created by Lalela learners during our recent holiday programmes.”

The festival featured abridged 30-to-40-minute adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays. These performances showcase the creativity and talent of learners from various South African communities, honouring the enduring legacy of Shakespeare.

Above: Lalela learners performing Macbeth and behind the scenes preparation. 

The Journey to the Stage

Participating Lalela learners’ path to this performance was a rigorous process having rehearsed every week for the past few months before opening night.

Claire Baker who has directed all the Lalela productions except this year when she handed over the reins to Lalela alumnus Aphendule Sixishe, shared insights into the rehearsal process: “It’s our 11th festival. We’ve done many, many Shakespeare plays. This year we had about 95 students audition, and 30 were chosen. They rehearse for about five months; they’re literally queuing at the doors to get in through word of mouth from their peers and their older brothers and sisters who have been involved. You know, to have 100 kids or students audition, is just brilliant! Our Shakespeare production is a sort of modern localised, powerful adaptation of Shakespeare’s original work. We’ve come to be known for having our Lalela style, our own Lalela style!

Baker explained that an important influence on the production is the circumstances that the Lalela learners are going through.

“Quite often, rehearsals become a place of therapy and a place of refuge. Once, in the past, we had the terrible fires, when we were rehearsing and our Macbeth and Lady Macbeth had their homes burnt down. And Macbeth, took a totally different turn. So, you never know where the play is gonna go. And it takes just really sharing and bringing in all sorts of physical theatre and devised adaptations. And yeah, we’ve got a reputation for some very quirky, very interesting and abstract stuff that happens with the Lalela performance and people look forward to it!”

Lalela’s Impact

Aphendule Sixishe, who transitioned from participant to director, is a testament to Lalela’s involvement in the Shakespeare Schools Festival over the years.

Reflecting on his journey, Aphendule shared: “I joined Lalela in high school when I was 15. We put on our first play at the Artscape Theatre in 2013. After matriculating, I continued working with Claire. She handed over the reins to me for this year’s production. The challenges have mostly been personal, but the talent is there, and we just polish the gems. Seeing a production come together is overwhelming, especially when the audience receives it well.”

The 14th Shakespeare Schools Festival is an incredible showcase of the boundless potential of Lalela learners! For more information, visit @shakespeareschoolsfestival and follow @lalelaproject on Instagram.


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Your generosity makes it possible for Lalela’s educational arts programmes to create meaningful change that affects thousands of at-risk children in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Your generosity makes it possible for Lalela’s educational arts programmes to create meaningful change that affects thousands of at-risk children in Sub-Saharan Africa.



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