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Tuesday, May 16, 2017


(Pic by Siya Meyiwa)

Congratulations to one and all for a student production at a highly professional level. (Review by Caroline Smart)

The Department of Drama and Production Studies at Durban University of Technology (DUT) is currently presenting uMabatha. Skillfully directed by Siza Mthembu, DUT’s drama lecturer, this is a re-interpretation of Welcome Msomi's iconic and critically-acclaimed play.

I was at the very first performance of uMabatha in 1971.  It was held  at the Open Air Theatre (now the Pieter Scholtz Open Air Theatre) at the University of Natal (now UKZN). It was a magical evening where we watched Shakespeare’s Macbeth transformed into a traditional Zulu story running closely to the life of Shaka kaSenzangakhona (Shaka Zulu).

On that clear night of brilliant theatre, I remember the excitement of watching the warriors run or hide behind the bushes, adding to the authenticity.

Another amusing memory I have is that the production - which became known as “The Zulu Macbeth" - went to London where it performed at the Aldwych Theatre but the floorboards of this grand old venue couldn’t handle the powerful stamping of Zulu dance and nails popped out all over the place!

The Courtyard Theatre stage also takes some hammering with high energy Zulu dance and I was very impressed to learn from the choreographer, Mdu Mtshali, that only some of the students had experience in this genre.

In fact, energy is the name of the game from the word go and the vibrant opening is followed by an extremely riveting presentation of acting, dance and song through to its triumphant end.

Simangaliso Zungu gave a highly impressive performance as uMabatha (Macbeth), staying focused and controlled throughout, providing the strength required for the dramatic scenes. Equally excellent was Sthembele Ncane as a feisty and determined Kamadonsela (Lady Macbeth). Also notable were Trueman Myeza as Bhangane and Wandile Nodliwa as Dangane (Duncan).

The three witches were suitably scary and a single drummer provides a thrilling backing. Stage d├ęcor is by Slindile Pooe, the lighting is very effective and there is good use of the smoke machine.

For a few hours, one is transported into the early 19th century and the world of traditional Zulu customs, charming maidens, authentic costumes and the emotions of greed, jealousy and revenge. The supporting cast is first-rate and the crowd scenes and fighting sequences are extremely well done. I kept reminding myself that these are the youngsters of the 21st century who no doubt will head straight for their cellphones the moment the show ends!

There are several alternative casts which allow a wider number of students to be able to perform the work, for which Siza Mthembu should be congratulated, although this would virtually have required him to focus on three productions!

Even if your command of the Zulu language is not strong enough to follow an entire full-length play, then brush up on Shakespeare’s Macbeth and you won’t have any problem.

Congratulations to one and all for a student production at a highly professional level.

uMabatha has two more performances at the Courtyard Theatre - tomorrow and Thursday (May 17 and 18) at 18h00. The Courtyard Theatre is in Steve Biko Road, Ritson Campus, parking available at Gate 6. For bookings or more information contact Lebo Sibisi on 031 373 1694 o/h. – Caroline Smart