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Monday, June 10, 2019


(Left:  Menzi Mkhwane)

This is a remarkable production and I would urge you not to miss it when it comes your way in the future. (Review by Caroline Smart)

I saw Menzi Mkhwane’s Last Cow Standing when it was first performed about four years ago at the Catalina Theatre. Originally directed by Lihle Dhlomo, the one-man show has appeared several times since then.

I was able to catch it again when it had a short run in the Playhouse Loft last week where it also performed to schoolchildren. The space was altered with chairs placed around the stage itself, thus creating a “theatre in the round”.

Mkhwane explains that he originally wanted to create a piece of theatre in which he would be able to showcase his acting skills. “I started considering performing and creating it when I was at a point in my journey when I wanted to do solo work and would showcase my interest in African storytelling. I was inspired by my dad (well-known actor Bheki Mkhwane), Ellis Pearson and Andrew Buckland. I spent a long time watching videos of some of the best work my dad had done over the years, trying to find my own original story.”

His main inspiration came from Marguerite Poland’s book, The Abandoned Herds. “I found it intriguing and it had all the elements I wanted.”

This latest version, directed by Mkhwane who gives a brilliant performance, shows considerable development and while it would benefit from some cutting, it still remains a compelling piece of theatre.

Mkhwane, who is a master of vocal versatility, has created a story that’s set in the rural outback landscape of the Nguni world. The kingdom is suffering from a plague that has killed nearly all the cattle in the area. The king believes that by sacrificing all the remaining cows, Gwande (the kingdom’s deity) will perform a miracle that will save the kingdom.

However, an old woman believes this is completely the wrong approach and will devastate the kingdom. She sends her grandson, Samira, to travel to the King and warn him to change his mind.

The play covers Samira’s journey, in which he is accompanied by their last cow. Here, I must add that Mkhwane has mastered the sound of the deep lowing of a cow and the opening deals with the slow death of an animal, requiring the actor to generate the sounds of bovine pain and distress.

In his travels, Samira comes across a wide-ranging number of people – all of whom Mkhwane gives distinctive bodily and vocal characteristics. His command of accents and characters is very impressive as is his considerable breath control.

Seated behind the audience at the back of the stage, Matthew Hoffman provides an effective musical landscape on keyboard. Lighting plays a major part in the dramatic process and Nkosingiphile (Mancane) Dlamini does an excellent job.

This is a remarkable production and I would urge you not to miss it when it comes your way in the future.

For more information contact Menzi Mkhwane on 079 554 4941. – Caroline Smart