The Market Theatre Johannesburg


From the Novel by Es’kia Mphahlele

Adapted and Directed by James Ngcobo

Featuring Live Music Composed and Written by Hugh Masekela


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The Market Theatre Johannesburg

The Suitcase

From the Novel by Es’kia Mphahlele

Adapted and Directed by James Ngcobo

Featuring Live Music Composed and Written by Hugh Masekela



It’s 1950s South Africa. A young newly married couple leave their rural village and disapproving family for the city of Durban. Their goal: to return home, rich and free. 

But, alienated in the city, unemployed and poor, Timi starts to lose his moral compass. Desperate to provide for his pregnant wife he steals a suitcase left on a bus not knowing what might be inside; an act which brings frightening consequences, dramatic twists and unexpected turns.

Based on a true story, The Market Theatre's The Suitcase has been nominated in the New Director category in the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards for The Rosalie van der Gucht Prize. Director James Ngcobo saw enormous theatrical potential in this poignant and emotive story and so adapted it for stage. This evocative, visual and moving production encompasses African storytelling and lyrical music at its very best.

Writer Es'kia Mphahlele is among South Africa’s greatest authors, thinkers and critics. Respected worldwide as a literary luminary, he has published many short stories, essays and novels dealing with issues of race and South Africa’s changing society. Hugh Masekela, legendary South African musician, has written the perfect soundtrack to this powerful piece.

The Market Theatre was founded in Johannesburg in 1976 by Mannie Manim and the late playwright Barney Simon. Known internationally as the ‘Theatre of the Struggle’, the Market Theatre challenged the Apartheid regime and dared to stand up against social injustice, acting as a powerful voice for freedom and emancipation. Over the past four decades, the theatre has evolved into a cultural complex for performance, music, dance and the allied arts. Today, the Market Theatre continues to be engaging, challenging and entertaining. 

"The thing that struck me about The Suitcase is it's a story about love, a love that is so tender to watch and grows into a powerful force, so much so that our leading man will risk anything for it. An international heartbreaking beautiful tale of our times. Market Theatre extraordinary story telling through music and movement will move you. A story of love and hope in desperate times."

Amanda, Artistic Associate

"A funny, passionate love story about the search for a better life and taking desperate chances to try and find it. It's a physical performance, accompanied by a beautiful live music score."  

Danielle, Box Office Manager

"The Suitcase is about the extraordinary lengths a man will go to to secure a better life for his family. A delicately funny story tinged with sadness, featuring beautiful a cappella music."

Vicki, Press and Digital Communications Officer

“The vocal orchestra creates a chilling atmosphere throughout the performance. The female character paints a tragic picture of what it means to be poor in a new city, and each time the couple say goodbye to each other, the look that is shared between them is so full of love and longing, but tinged with sadness, as they both know they must play the roles of Husband and Wife leading separate lives.”

Georgia, Deputy Box Office Manager

Part of The Drama Deal

Dinner & Show Available


Touch Tour: Thur 7 Sept, 6.30pm
Audio Described Performance: Thur 7 Sept, 7.30pm
Captioned Performance: Fri 8 Sept, 7.30pm


Discover Day: Sat 9 Sept
Post-Show Q&A: Wed 6 Sept

The Suitcase is presented in its UK Premiere by five partner theatres across the North and funded by the National Lottery and Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring fund. Hull Truck Theatre, Northern Stage, Derby Theatre, Lancaster Dukes and Liverpool Playhouse are delighted to be bringing this extraordinary production across from South Africa, and to be working so closely with The Market Theatre, which has long been celebrated for the part it played in bringing people together and foregrounding story and human strength during Apartheid.

This tour is a celebration of the lives of cities, communities and artists coming together from across the world.


Presented in partnership  and 


The Tour of The Suitcase is supported by:  


Siyabonga Caswell Thwala

Timi Ngobese

Molatlhegi Desmond Dube

Mlotshawa / Storyteller

Masasa Lindiwe Mbangeni

Namhla Ngobese

Nhlanhla John Lata

Pitso / Storyteller

Music & Vocals

Gugulethu Shezi


Penelope Nomfundo Sambo


Nokukhanya Gugulethu Dlamini


Bhekisisa Sifiso Makhosonke Khoza


The Market Theatre

Sibongeleni James Ngcobo


Hugh Masakela


Wesley France

Lighting Designer

Nadya Cohen

Costume & Set Design

Zodwa Shongwe


Thato Kobile

Company Manager

Bongani Mokgethwa Goodintend Motsepe

Stage Manager

UK Tour

Rowan Rutter


Luke Child

Production Manager

Gail Cooke

Marketing & Audience Development

Rachael Abbey

Production Assistant

Shona Wright

Technical Stage Manager

Glyn Edwards


‘wonderfully evocative... compelling performance’

Reviews Hub

‘joyful, often keening and sorrowful’

The Guardian

‘a powerful tale of hope, desperation and fate’

Hey Today