Text by Paul Stebbings for TNT Theatre Britain and ADG Europe.
Please note this is starting point not a fixed and finished process
- Ubuntu! An celebration of Africa in a dance, music and colour that reflects Nelson and Winnie Mandela’s Xhosa tribal roots, and the idea of Ubuntu – consensus and justice for all in a society that cares for each other. This transforms into a sequence where the young Mandela goes through a painful traditional ritual to arrive at manhood.
- A scene where the young Mandela is told that his wife has been chosen for him and he will become a tribal chief’s advisor (also showing that he is educated). In horror Mandela runs away to Johannesburg. A scene of urban 1940’s city, the mines, the college where he enrols while working a as a clerk at the mines.
- Africans gather round a radio to listen to results of election, Malan wins and sets up Apartheid. Racial segregation is imposed with both petty and discriminatory laws put in place. Nelson hates the laws and joins the African National Congress he asks how he can be useful. He is told to become a lawyer not a fighter.
- A young lawyer walks into the office of a Tambo, the only black lawyer in Johannesburg. He is taken on. In his spare time he becomes an amateur boxer with a stylised sequence that uses boxing to show his legal work as well as political thinking.
- Scene of Winnie Mandela, her career as young social worker, her opportunity to go the USA which she turns down to stay in South Africa. Her first meeting with Mandela. He asks her to marry him and “confesses” to his divorce. Winnie’s father tries to dissuade her but she rejects him and marries Nelson.
- Tambo and Mandela rise inside ANC and issue Freedom Charter. Police try to persuade Mandela’s mother to force him to go home to tribal lands and practice law away from trouble makers. Nelson almost gives way but Winnie helps him stay in struggle despite knowing what it means for their family life.
- Mandela is arrested. He and Tambo charged with treason. Demonstrations against their 4 year trial grow, culminating in anti pass law peaceful demonstration that ends in Sharpeville massacre. First international pressure on South Africa.
- Treason trial collapses and Mandela acquitted. But as he leaves courthouse he goes underground. At secret meeting ANC leaders vote to start armed struggle. Winnie smuggled into compound, she supports him but hardly sees him on his lonely path.
- Increasing violence, Mandela is caught as a result of a traitor inside ANC. He is tried for high treason and violent rebellion. Documents implicate him in calls for violence that should have been destroyed. It appears he will be sentenced to death. He arrives in a Chief’s garb at the trial and delivers what he thinks will be his last speech. A politician talks to the Judge, they decide it is not in the interests of the state to create a martyr and upset the West. So Nelson is sentenced to life imprisonment.
- Robben Island. The prison, the quarry the lectures, the humiliation and resistance. Winnie visits and returns becoming a leader now in her own right.
- Winnie and her daughter are harassed by police raids , She is arrested and thrown into solitary confinement. She keeps on giving speeches and the politicians and Police decide to exile her. Nelson is tortured by newspaper clippings pushed under his cell door with her arrest and jailing.
- Winnie in exile – the house with no floor or electricity or water. She does not speak the language of the local Africans. But she starts to learn she organises, she takes on the authorities. But she starts to crack, she tries to go home to Soweto but is stopped by police including a white woman.
- We see contrast, Nelson starts to gain more privileges and become calmer just as Winnie starts to lose control under constant provocation.
- Free Nelson Mandela Concert in London and anti-apartheid marches
- More violence, A white policeman is troubled. He cannot sleep, his actions are destroying him. He pushes aside his wife, she tries to calm him. She says things are changing. He says things will never change. She turns on the radio and hears De Klerk says things have to change.
- Winnie is allowed back to Soweto, Nelson is put in a luxurious prison by himself with a friendly white warder, possibly same Policeman who has troubled conscience. Pressure on Mandela to renounce violence. But at same time Winnie is supporting violence now she is back in Soweto. The Soweto boy Stompie is killed in her house. Is she guilty?
- De Klerk backs down and agrees to release Mandela without conditions. Nelson emerges from Prison to huge celebration.
- Right wing whites and Zulu tribes oppose ANC and compromise that Mandela proposes. More violence , a nightmare inversion of first Ubuntu scene as Zulus kill ANC members. Younger ANC members want revenge on Zulus and White army that allows or encourages this violence. But Mandela forces through a series of multi-racial and multi-tribal compromises. A date is agreed for election.
- But as he approaches the moment of triumph he argues and splits from Winnie. Announces his painful divorce.
- Election day, huge energy of the vote across the country. Triumph for Mandela who is elected first black president of South Africa. But there is a bitter sweet taste as Winnie turns away from him.
A Note on Style.
TNT always combines movement and music within complex texts. This production will be no exception. The first scene will set up an African influenced style. Narration and scenes will be held together by a chorus of performers who will operate like a Greek Chorus, providing the narrative line but also commenting and becoming roles in front of the audience. So, for example, white characters will be presented by black actors in masks. Mask work will be essential to the style and presentation. Song and music will push the story forward and control emotion and stage energy.