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Sunday, August 30, 2009


(Pic: Gugu Buthelezi (mother) and Samke Mkhize (Nobuntu).)

KCaps, the resident theatre company of the Kwa Mashu-based Ekhaya Multi Arts Centre’s (EMAC), have produced a new musical titled Madame President which looks at the challenges that might arise should a woman emerge as President of South Africa. Receiving strong response from a highly supportive and appreciative audience, the opening night was graced by the presence of KZN Premier, Mr Zweli Mkhize.

In his introductory speech K-Caps publicist, Xolani Majozi explained that KCaps is on a permanent journey of discovering young talent, producing artists of a high calibre – some are now working around the world in various productions of The Lion King. Among these, is Sbongiseni Duma who is in the show on Broadway but currently enjoying a break at home. He happened to be in the audience and was invited onto the stage, where he made an impassioned plea to public bodies and sponsors alike to support the considerable amount of artistic talent among the youth of South Africa.

Madame President follows the story of a young woman from birth as the female part of a pair of twins to her lofty position as president. Her domineering and bigoted father (strongly played by Thandanani Qwabe) felt she was a bad omen, as he had only produced sons up until then. He resolves to have her killed so that she can be “married back to the ancestors” and thereby remove the curse.

Her redoubtable mother, however, beautifully played by Gugu Buthelezi of the serene smile, rebels against her husband’s decision. Calling her child Nobuntu and predicting that she will become Madame President one day, she sends the baby to her husband’s brother for safe keeping. His wife takes to the child immediately and Nobuntu grows up in their care. Still unaware of her true parentage, she eventually goes to university where she meets someone who is crucial to her very existence. Driven by the example of her idol, Oprah Winfrey, she perseveres in her journey towards the position she seeks.

Eventually, of course, the truth will out but this only makes Nobuntu stronger and more determined to champion the cause of women and to entrench their equal status with men.Samkele Mkhize’s performance is pivotal to this production and she doesn’t falter, her stature and controlled delivery commanding attention. Matching her performance and a major favourite with the audience was Lucky Simayile as her adopted father who handles the part of drunkard skilfully without stereotypical melodrama. As Nobuntu’s much put-upon but obedient adopted mother, Lungile Mkhize is a tall and striking actress with a dazzling smile.

There are some very fine scenes and the scripting is dramatic, humorous and philosophical – a bold departure for K-Cap productions. Special mention must be made of strong performances by Sandile Mchunu in a pivotal role; Vuyo Sishuba who appeared in a very humorous scene with Nobuntu’s biological and adopted fathers; sparkling dancer Zimbili Hlongwane, and singer Themba Magagula.

Designed by Wantasha, the costumes are bright and cheerful and the only ones I had a problem with were the men’s Egyptian styled costumes in the second half which looked really out of place. Up until now, K-Caps productions have featured mainly traditional dance styles but now see the introduction of contemporary dance. These are choreographed by Male Khumalo but they don’t always fit into particular scenes and are often very hectic. Slowing down the pace would allow us to better appreciate the moves.

Linda Ngcwensa (leader of gospel group Avante) is the musical director and this aspect of the production is rock solid – with some good voices and pleasing harmonies, involving a range of musical styles from maskanda and pantsula to passionate gospel. I was impressed by Njabulo Mzulwini and Hlengiwe Qwili who performed The African Woman is a Survivor and Khanyisani Shoba, Mlungisi Shabalala and Sduduzo Mseleku who sang I want to pay tribute to the Women of Africa.

It’s hard to believe that many of these performers are appearing in their first professional production. While the action never flags and the cast is well-rehearsed, focused and disciplined, the show was way too long on opening night but I understand that it has since received some judicious pruning.

While Madame President is performed in a bare stage concert format with no sets or props other than a couple of sheaves of grass, I believe it is KCAP’s best production to date in terms of acting, dancing and musical standards.

Madame President runs in the Playhouse Drama until September 6 at 19h00 with matinee shows for schools at 11h00. Book at Computicket. – Caroline Smart