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Monday, April 28, 2014


(Busisiwe Nyundu, who takes the part of Nomcoba)

Deep, moody production from Sibikwa Arts Centre. (Review by Keith Millar)

Hosted by The Playhouse Company’s New Stages initiative, and supported by the National Lottery Distribution Fund, is iLembe, an evocative new work from the Johannesburg based Sibikwa Arts Centre. Written and directed by the award winning team of Smal Ndaba and Sarah Klotz, iLembe tells the story of last few months of the life of the Zulu King, uShaka, through the medium of powerful storytelling, beautiful music and pulsating dance.

What is certain about Shaka Zulu is that he conquered and united many diverse tribes to create the mighty Zulu nation. He has historically been depicted as a cruel and harsh leader. However, oral tradition – which has only gained respect and credence in more recent years – suggests that he may have been a great statesman and nation builder.

iLembe poses questions about where the truth lies. Audiences are asked to look beyond their prejudices and perceptions and come to their own conclusions.

There are four perspectives to be considered. The story is told by uShaka’s interpreter Jackot Msimbithi (played by Andries Mbali), the young English trader Henry Frances Fyn (Jeremy Richard), uShaka’s attendant Mbopha (Sabelo Mnisi) and his sister Nomcoba (Busisiwe Nyundu). All four actors put in powerful performances and deliver their storytelling monologues with aplomb.

Tholani Miya as the Sangoma puts in an impressive, sinister and sustained performance, while the dancers and musicians also put in accomplished performances.

iLembe is a deep, moody production with costume and set design by Sarah Roberts and lighting by Stan Knight.

At times there graphic descriptions of death and destruction which I found a little disturbing.

The production is multilingual and uses sub-titles projected onto a screen to assist the audience in understanding the dialogue. A very good idea but occasionally distracting when one is trying to read and look at the action on the stage at the same time.

Performances at The Drama Theatre at the Playhouse will take place on April 29 and 30 at 10h00 and on May 2 and 3 at 19h30. Booking is through Computicket  or phone 0861 915 8000 or book online at Seating is reserved.  - Keith Millar