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Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Hamish Kyd revisits tribute to soul music which originally formed part of soul music anthology at the Playhouse. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Devised and directed by Hamish Kyd, Southern Soul opened this evening at the Catalina Theatre on Wilson’s Wharf. Hamish Kyd has a rock-solid support base so the audience responded well to this entertaining production which deals with Atlantic Records and soul music.

In 1952, a frenetic young Jewish man named Jerry Wexler made ground-breaking history in soul music when he became a partner in Atlantic Records. The record company owner Ahmet Ertegun recognized that he had a unique manner of identifying Black talent.

To quote the press release: “Wexler took Atlantic Records to the South of America because he discovered that the artistes there staged their songs with church fervour encapsulating the most intimate emotions, such as the need to be loved, the frustration of not being loved, and the ecstasies of being loved. Wexler’s aim was to capture these emotions on record. His efforts gave rise to Soul legends such as Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Percy Sledge and Wilson Pickett.

In his programme notes, Hamish Kyd reminds us that, together with Motown Forever (produced in January 2008), Southern Soul is part of an anthology of soul music that he devised in 1987 for the now-defunct Playhouse Cellar supper theatre venue. The shows were produced as The Motown Story and Southern Groove and were directed by the late Mervyn Goodman, highlighting the difference between the “groomed” artist and the artist with a ”raw” talent. This difference and the great soul performances that evolved always fascinated Hamish from his teenage years and convinced him that - no matter the odds - a person can achieve.

In Southern Soul, Hamish highlights the music of these great performers from a South African perspective alongside choreography by Jarryd Watson. Appearing as Professor Gopal, handkerchief dabbing his tears, he informs us that the evening forms part of a memorial to his friend Kosie, an ardent lover of soul music who just happens to have come back to earth as a white rat. Said rat (alias Kosie) is carted on and off stage in its cage at random but seems to be very comfortable with such theatrical activity.

Also appearing are the inimitable power-house Sli Nodangala – whose Tonight is the Night with Hamish Kyd was a real highlight -and the engaging Rory Booth who gave a good rendering of What I’d Say as well as the lively Portia Zungu and Victor and Vincent from the new singing and dancing sensation Zzzing!, the latter offering a welcome introduction of new talent to mainstream theatre. From a technical point of view, the backing tracks overshadowed the performers, preventing them from introducing any subtleties into the music, and Hamish Kyd was too often positioned in the dark.

Highly effective panels portraying images through a photographic process onto architect paper have been designed by Themi Venturas and painted by Hugo le Roux and Jannie Venter. Featuring Ray Charles, Otis Redding, the Stable Singers, Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin, they form an attractive backdrop for the action.

Southern Soul is dedicated to the memory of the endearing and highly talented Cindy Ngidi who Hamish promised would be in the cast when the production was revived. However, she passed on before this could become a reality. I feel sure that her gentle spirit is shining benevolently on this production.

Southern Soul has a nice long run at the Catalina Theatre until March 1. Bookings on 031 305 6889 or through Strictly Tickets. – Caroline Smart