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Thursday, December 12, 2013


(Mbongeni Ngema & Matshitshi Ngema. Pic by Val Adamson)

Ngema gives a riveting performance as he recounts the history of the Zulu people. (Review by Keith Millar)

Mbongeni Ngema is a gifted storyteller. A talent he fully exploits in his performance of his inspirational new one-man show, The Zulu, which is currently on in The Playhouse Drama in Durban.

As his inspiration in creating The Zulu, Ngema used the stories told to him by his great-grandmother when he was growing up in rural Zululand. He recounts the melodramatic history of the Zulu people from time of King Shaka, through the reign of Kings Dingaan, Mpande and Cetshwayo and culminating in a detailed and very dramatic description of the famous Zulu victory over the British troops at Isandhlwana.

Events such as the genocide at the death of Queen Nandi, the battle of Blood River and the murder of Piet Retief and his followers by Dingaan are all recalled.

Ngema gives a riveting performance. The audience remained transfixed as he told the story with pride, emotion and drama.

This show marks Ngema’s return to the stage as an actor, after many years of creating and producing block-buster shows such as Woza Albert, Sarafina and Asinamali. He has certainly lost none of his ability to enthrall and entertain.

Joining Ngema on stage is accomplished Maskandi artist Matshitshi Ngema. He provides an extra dimension with his talented singing and guitar playing as well as assisting in the recreation of dramatic moments in the story.

The Zulu is funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund and is produced by the Committed Artists Foundation. Direction is by Christopher John while the simple but versatile set was designed by Sarah Roberts. Kenny Bolokwe created the very dramatic and complimentary lighting and the sound designer is Malcolm Nhleko.

Much of Zulu folklore and history is transmitted through story-telling. It is a skill that is very important in the cultural heritage of the nation.

Ngema says of his great-grandmother: “Her skills as a story-teller kept the wealth of our history alive, both about our family background, and our proud roots as members of the Zulu nation”. These are story-telling skills have been inherited by Mbongeni Ngema and The Zulu will certainly play a part in keeping this history alive.

The Zulu runs in the Playhouse Drama until December 29. Tickets R150 Tuesdays to Thursdays and R200 Fridays to Sundays (R80 children/students/pensioners). Block booking discounts are available. Performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 20h00 (Sundays at 15h00). Booking is through Computicket on 0861 915 8000 or online at – Keith Millar