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Friday, July 22, 2016


(Musa Mjoko)

Inspiring and enriching local theatre. (Review by Rowin Munsamy)

Long-term AIDS survivor and activist Musa Njoko has crafted an original musical theatre production which chronicles her astonishing life, sharing her triumphs and challenging personal journey as one of the country’s earliest AIDS activists. The show is well directed by Edmund Mhlongo, with dazzling choreography by Delani Khumalo and Thami Njoko. In My Own Voice features a cast of 16 performers with a five-piece band under the musical direction of Wanda Kwela.

The chorus of singers, dressed in Red Hoods, accompanied by the symphonic sounds of the band, help to journey us into the dark woods which is Njoko’s past and her faith, struggle and triumph over HIV/AIDS. Queenie, the lead character, is depicted brilliantly with youthful spunk by a young talented actress. She appeared in Sophiatown last year and this year gets to flex her muscles in this meaty and challenging role. Gugu, her best friend, offers some much-needed comic relief amongst the sorrow of the story being told. The singing is impeccable as the leads and the chorus sing hymns that are familiar and songs that are new which, together with the story, provide us with faith, hope and inspiration. The vibey dancers, with choreography embedded in cultural milieu and Pantsula, entertain with their expressive and energetic moves.

The script is well thought-out as it teaches without taking away from its entertainment value. The only lull experienced was during the interview scene which was very fact-driven. But this could have been forgiven had there been an interval during the almost two-hour show. All of which is overcome by the impact of the finale and the honest sentiments spoken by Njoko herself.

In creating her ground-breaking new work, Njoko has sought to give expression to the faith that sustained her through her darkest times of feeling abandoned by those around her as she struggled to come to terms with her perilously deteriorating health during the early days of the AIDS pandemic.

“We live in a world dominated by fear, mistrust and societal fragmentation, where our families are damaged by the hurt of abandonment, unkindness and cruelty,” says Njoko.

In My Own Voice is being staged as part of the AIDS2016 global conference in Durban. Presented by Musa Njoko Music and Entertainment in association with the Playhouse Company, and supported by Ethekwini Municipality, the production will run until July 24. It is inspiring and enriching local theatre. - Verne Rowin Munsamy