TUT Musical Theatre alumna, Mpule Matlhola (26) portrays the role of Lesedi in a new television drama series, ISONO (The Sin).
ISONO centres around a dysfunctional family and a heroic son who searches within himself for the strength to stand up against a powerful and evil matriarch who will stop at nothing to serve her own needs.
Lesedi, Mpule’s character, is a 17 year-old orphan living in the House of Grace orphanage in Vosloorus, Johannesburg. She was brought to the home by a social worker when she was seven. She hides a special gift, a talent to sing, which changes her environment. “Viewers can follow her path as she fights to believe in herself being worthy of the gift,” says Mpule.
Mpule initially studied German Linguistics and International Relations at the University of Pretoria after an artistic journey at high school. “At first, I did not feel emotionally prepared for an artistic career,” she recalls.
“Whilst being an exchange student in Germany, a Croatian friend commented on my acting being impressive. I knew there and then that, when I go back to South Africa, I want to study Musical Theatre. Musical Theatre is a triple-thread course (training performers in acting, singing, and dancing) for artists with huge appetites, who push themselves to go beyond their talent. I knew Musical Theatre would demand discipline, collaboration, strategy, courage and hard work, so I chose to transform,” she says.
ISONO is not Mpule’s television debut. She has portrayed a role in a Made for Television Movie, Mbalenhle, as well as a drama series, The Republic.
Asked what her fondest memories are of her days on the Arts Campus, she says: “I cherished being part of the Musical Theatre production, Showtime. Students took creative ownership and displayed confidence to express their artistry. The collaboration, audition processes and performance spaces we explored during my three years were truly a test of whether or not I’m truly made for this industry. It was fun, but hard work. It pushed me to believe in myself and establish a work ethic, amongst others.”
ISONO includes a star-studded local cast which features Nthati Moshesh and Rami Chuene. Mpule says working alongside these renowned actors is great.
“I am in awe of how humble many of them are, how secure they are in their unique contributions to the show, that they appreciate other thespians who may not have their experience. I cherish our Green-Room conversations. The young stars are fun and have become anchors and comfort in a common struggle to 'make it' in industry. Some strengthen you by making you aware of how high the bar is and how you are a part of that. The older actors are mamas and fathers who protect us and adore us for being who we are. The professionalism of understanding what's at stake for all of us and the maturity of unity makes this one of my most memorable shows to do. This makes excellence much easier, in a secure space where you can freely make contributions and be respected.”
What advice does she have for artists who have been heavily affected by the stringent lockdown measures? “I hope this time brings us confidence to be wholehearted about storytelling, and that we set our energies to achieve, no matter what circumstances. Theatre has gone online and that has broadened our audience. Our dreams still matter. Let's keep fit, adjust to audition changes, and learn new things to empower the arts and those who live off it.”
She encourages television viewers to tune into ISONO. “Every bit of many of your favourite drama series’ is in this work, and not much is what it seems in the character developments. It's even musical in some aspects. The execution is just sheer African brilliance,” she concludes.
ISONO (The Sin) is co-produced with Clive Morris Productions. Clive is a Drama alumnus.