Simthembile Prince Lamla

The story of 31-year-old Simthembile Prince Lamla’s early life is worthy of a screenplay. Born in QwaQwa in the Free State, the 2013 Standard Bank Young Artist Awardwinner moved to Johannesburg as a teenager and found it miserable. “I was very unhappy,” he says, “so my parents decided I should come back home because I was getting involved in crime.” At home again in 1998 his life wasn’t easy. Lamla had picked the wrong time to come back. It was the middle of the school year and no principal would take him in, so he sat out the rest of his grade 11 year. It was during those months of idling around that he fell in love with theatre. He joined friends who were involved in a community theatre project and the experience proved to be life-changing. Through sheer happenstance he had found his destiny. The turning point came when he was given a bit part, playing a gangster, and he “nailed it”. From then on there would be no looking back. He started directing plays with his late best friend, Ohenste Bodibe, to whom he dedicated his Standard Bank Award. They directed seven plays together, but it was Coal Yard that would shape their futures. The play emerged as the frontrunner at the Zwakala festival organised by the Market Theatre Laboratory and as first prize it premiered at the Market Theatre in 2006. More success followed. The Market accepted Lamla’s proposal to stage the classic political satire Woza Albert!, and the play packed the theatre for months and went on to tour to Swaziland and Scotland. At this year’s Grahamstown National Arts Festival Lamla will stage another South African classic, Asinamali!, together with Woza Albert! — Bongani Kona