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Wednesday, November 10, 2010


(Thiru Naidoo and Nhlakanipho Manqele)

Presented by Theatre Arts Projects, in association with Rajesh Gopie, and supported by New National Assurance, The Coolie Odyssey is a special event to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of Indians arriving in South Africa.

Gopie is perhaps best known for writing and performing the international stage one-hander hit Out of Bounds. He has now re-worked and re-directed his insightful The Coolie Odyssey for a short season at the iZulu Theatre at the Sibaya Casino from November 12. The play looks at the lives of indentured workers from India who arrived in Natal to work on the sugar plantations.

The Coolie Odyssey premiered at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in 2002, before enjoying a highly-successful season at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg. It focuses on the indenture of workers from India for the sugar plantations in Natal between 1860 and 1911. It combines compassion with humour to reveal important insights into the identity of South African Indians, their role, significance and contribution to out country’s narrative, and the ongoing issues of race relations and nation-building.

Its plot unfolds as the story-teller - a monkey, with memories of previous human incarnations – types up his story on an old typewriter. His story unveils the life of Ramlall Kihari, an indentured labourer, who arrived in Durban in 1864. We follow Ramlal as he searches for identity, belonging and salvation against the backdrop of those pioneering colonial times. The scope of this play is panoramic, yet detailed and nuanced with pathos, live musical accompaniment and theatrical imagination.

The cast includes Renaldo Abraham Moodley; Nhlakanipho Manqele; Vishendra Singh; Yateen Dayaram; Thiru Naidoo; Avershree Maistry; as well as musicians led by Mumbai sufi singing star, Anuraag Dounidyal.

The Coolie Odyssey runs at the iZulu Theatre: Sibaya Casino, from November 12 to 21. Booking is through Computicket. For corporate bookings, sold houses and fundraisers call 082 872 54 87.