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Thursday, December 3, 2009


(Pic: Mphathi Shozi plays King Mpande)

Sifiso Simamane draws impressive dramatic performances from his cast in his first musical. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Inkosi Umpande Kasenzangakhona (“King Mpande, son of Senzangakhona”) is the first major musical show produced by actor Sifiso Simamane, who came to the attention of Durban theatre-goers with his good performances in Ashwin Singh’s plays To House presented by the Playhouse in the Drama Theatre in 2006 and Spice ‘n Stuff presented at Catalina Theatre in 2007.

He has now taken on the roles of scriptwriter, director and producer for this show which opened last night at the Stable Theatre and hopefully sees the beginning of many new productions to preview at this city centre venue which is now under pro-active new management.

Inkosi uMpande Kasenzangakhona is a historical drama depicting the life of one of the great leaders of the Zulu nation, King Mpande kaSenzangakhona (1798-1872), who was half-brother to the two Zulu kings who preceded him - Shaka and Dingana.

Mpande was the son of King Senzangakhona and Queen Songiya of Ngotsha of Hlabisa tribe. Unlike his two half-brothers, who were murdered in the prime of their lives, Mpande lived a long and productive life before he died in his early 70’s.

The play – which includes many song and dance sequences - picks up his life from when Mpande was forced to leave his home because of death threats from Dingana, who felt that his half-brother was a threat to his throne. Taking his 17,000 followers across the uThukela river, Mpande sought sanctuary among the Boers who made the explosively political move of “crowning” him as King of the Zulus. As was the Boers’ intention, this created tension among the two kingdoms which ended up in war between Dingana and Mpande’s armies. Dingana’s army was eventually defeated but he was later assassinated by the Swazi army and Mpande became king of the entire Zulu nation.

While I have assisted Sifiso in getting the production into the Stable Theatre, it has been nothing more than offering suggestions for improved staging in a venue he is unfamiliar with. The rest of the process has been in his hands. What is notable is the impressive level of dramatic performance he has drawn from his young cast with Mphathi Shozi presenting a focused and credible King Mpande.

This is a work in progress and technical aspects such as lighting need strong attention but the level of consistent energy from the disciplined cast drew strong approval from the audience. Sifiso Simamane is to be commended for taking on such a challenging project and creating a dramatic yet entertaining production.

Performances of Inkosi uMpande Kasenzangakhona will take place at the Stable Theatre in Johannes Nkosi Street (Alice Street) from December 2 to 6 with shows at 19h00 on December 3, 4 and 6. The duration of the show is 90 minutes and there will be matinee performances at 15h00 on December 5 and 6.

Admission R60. To book tickets or for more information contact Stable Theatre on 031 309 2513. – Caroline Smart