"Everyone wants to be free. Free from pain, free from suffering, free from destruction, free from rules, free to choose, free to move, free to be. In a world only known to them we hear the stories of those torn between the past and the demand of living in the present. As they try to find ways and seek guidance from others to break the chains that keep them from moving forward. We meet characters like Diva, Woman, Tata, Mr Personality, The Soldiers, The Twins, all presented in ten different exhibits, each one able to stand on its own. Universal topics are explored, topics that can make one feel like they are trapped with no way to get out.

What they don't realise is that they truly have all the freedom in the world, to do, be and have anything they want. Unfortunately there are rules, some rules may make one feel like they are trapped in a strait-jacket which keeps them from fully engaging in life. It's a tough world, it's either they follow the rules or they make their own". Zinzi Mhlongo, in a blog, "Getting to know Princess Zinzi Mhlongo" published on our website in February. (

It's appropriate in the month that we celebrate Freedom Day, to reflect on Trapped, the new production by Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Theatre 2012 winner Princess Zinzi Mhlongo who believes that it's important for theatre to reflect on the issues that affect society. 

Written with assistant writer Zimkitha Kumbeka and inspired by George C. Wolfe's The Coloured Museum, Trapped is a fantasy set in an abandoned museum with various exhibits talking about freedom and identity. As Mhlongo explained in an interview published in Classic Feel ( "it's about a family that is trapped inside an abandoned museum and they come to tell the stories of different people who are all trapped in different ways, in various circumstances." It's an interesting device which Mhlongo uses to explore a number of different themes and to tell a series of what she describes as "little stories". "It is," she told Business Day, "about issues that I relate to as a young South African. It's important that we write our own stories."

Trapped will premiere at the National Arts Festival, from 28 June to 8 July in Grahamstown and then move to the Salzburg Festival's Young Directors Project ( ) in Austria, where Mhlongo is one of four young theatre-makers from around the world who have been invited to participate.

At 25 years of age Mhlongo has achieved a great deal and has made a name for herself as an actor, director and writer. Born in the mining town of Witbank, she joined the Witbank Youth Theatre as a high school student. There she was fortunate to work with Ismail Mohamed, currently director of the National Arts Festival, whom she impressed with her talent and perseverance. Determined to be an actor, she went on to complete a degree in drama at the Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria and, in her final year directed a full-scale production of Fatima Dike's So What's New?

In 2008, Mhlongo made her professional debut directing And the Girls in Their Sunday Dresses, a play based on a Zakes Mda short story at the State Theatre. It was a story she identified with, finding a resonance between Mda's writings about apartheid South Africa and the world in which she grew up in. The production was such a success that it travelled to the National Arts Festival and to the Market Theatre. Since then, she and her company, Tick Tock Productions, have successfully staged Sarah Kane's 4:48 Psychosis in Grahamstown and Germany, honing Mhlongo's directing abilities - the company's new production of So What's New? was nominated for two Naledi Awards!

Tick Tock Productions' slogan is, "There's a Time For Everything". As a first time playwright Mhlongo says that the opportunities of being a Standard Bank Young Artist and the invitation to participate in the Salzburg Festival are particularly well timed because, after having directed the work of others, she felt ready to strike out in a new direction and produce a work of her own making. "I know that this award will open up many doors for me. I am ready to grab opportunities as they come. I have big dreams and this is the perfect time for them to come true. Winning the Standard Bank Young Artist Award doesn't mean I have made it but it simply marks the beginning of great things to come."

Mhlongo's clearly not one of those whom she describes as feeling as if they are "trapped in a strait-jacket" - she's grasped the freedom to be creative, to explore as many of the different dimensions of theatre as she can, she's had the courage to strike out in new directions when she feels it's important to do so, and she's not allowing her age, gender or race to limit her options or her imagination. She's an inspiration and a role model, and a worthy recipient of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award.

Photographer: Suzy Bernstein

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    Great achievements,already thinking of my 5yr old son to interact with such people & follow his passion of acting!

    Name Tumie


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