national Arts Festival Banner

Saturday, July 25, 2009


(Pic: Jailoshini Naidoo and Percy Smith)

Evocative musical returns with Percy Smith and Jailoshini Naidoo reprising fine performances. (Review by Caroline Smart)

With the first performance of its second re-run season opening last night in the Playhouse Drama, Jimbo is set in the 1960s and ’70s. Filled with relevant distinctive jargon, it focuses on the city’s coloured community and depicts the street life of Durban’s Indian Market and Warwick Triangle – the latter now in danger of extinction as the area is undergoing a controversial revamp to create a new mall complex.

Direction is once again by Themi Venturas featuring the show’s original music by Siva Devar and lyrics by Hamish Kyd and Themi Venturas. The production is performed on Larri Coquillion’s original set design with lighting design by Richard Parker and musical direction by Melvin Peters who leads a five-piece band.

My last review of Jimbo was on July 12, 2006, when the production returned to the Playhouse after its premiere run in 1993 when it was presented in Durban as part of the Playhouse Company’s Kwasa Community Theatre Development Project. As the seasons are only three years apart, I make no excuses for drawing from my 2006 review.

Every major city in the world has its community of hoboes – sleeping on doorsteps or pavements, in parks or alleyways or under bridges - their only covering a threadbare blanket, cardboard boxes or sheets of plastic. Ever wondered what put them there? What change of fortune altered their lives to seek this kind of existence?

There is a dark side to Jimbo which retains its authenticity through Hamish Kyd’s input. Playing the impulsive Vishnu and also the only member of the original 1993 cast, he has drawn on his own experiences in the coloured community to create this scenario.

Jimbo was the first stage musical to be written about coloured people in Durban. Charged with vitality and graphic humour along with its own brand of pathos, its evocative story of back-street life is played by a sharply-drawn cast of characters, headed by two drink-sodden hoboes who tell of a life lived between heaven and hell. The action swings from their recollection of their pasts, often recalling painful memories, to vibrant crowd scenes filled with song and dance.

Three years on from their last appearance, Percy Smith and Jailoshini Naidoo still work extremely well together and put in compelling performances as the amusing and quarrelsome down-and-outs. Good to see Percy Smith back in an acting role again after his many Barnyard musical roles (his Hey Boy was extremely poignant) and Jailoshini is just as deliciously scruffy and volatile as Natasha.

Other pluses are the inimitable Sam Marais as the original gang-leader Stets, “T-Bone” Hlahane as Fingers, Andile Mdletshe as Styles; Thomie Holtzhausen as Sgt van Rooyen, Samkelisiwe Hlophe as the Shebeen Queen and Vivian Moodley as the witness. Special mention must also be made of Gareth Purchase, Grant Jacobs, Afzal Khan, Mario Ogle and Rory Booth who appear in a number of roles. Nomonde Matiwane and Marcia Mzindle play the young Jimbo and Natasha.

Followers of Lotus FM radio drama will also recognise names such as Kajal Bagwandeen, Rory Booth, Shika Budhoo and Pranesh Maharaj in the line-up.

With dancers of the calibre of Siyanda Duma and Sanele Mzinyane in the dance team, audiences can be assured that Ebrahim Medell’s pulsating choreography is in safe hands.

My main problem was the bad quality of the sound. Pure dialogue was fine but in the songs, it was almost impossible to distinguish the lyrics. This is something that needs urgent attention.

Representing survival over seemingly impossible odds, Jimbo runs until August 9 in the Playhouse Drama. Early booking is advised. Tickets range from R60 to R80 booked through Computicket at 0829158000 or the Playhouse box office on 031 369 9596 or 031 369 9540. Tickets at the door cost between R90 and R110. – Caroline Smart