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Thursday, May 26, 2022


Seeing a woman taking charge in that manner, gave a complex yet beautiful representation of woman, under the GBV climate. (Review by Philisiwe Twijnstra)

As the audience is seated with anticipation in their contemporary blend of traditional attire, the excitement, the vibrancy, and joy in the room is contagious. The stage is painted in colours that symbolise earth, land, and within glimpse of an eye, there is sprinkle of white which gives the illusion of splattered blood when light illumination is used.

Further downstage stood a presentational set of oval thatched huts and wooden fence on centre left stage, to upstage left and right. The set is minimal and functional for the actors, the actors use up stage and centre stage as the main playing area. 

One of the important things about theatre is to have an audience and one learns that it becomes a gift when theatre meets you halfway by embracing your own story. Most of us grew up knowing Inkosi uShaka Zulu’s story and the incredibility of how the late Henry Cele portrayed Shaka Zulu in his all might and melanin.

This may be true for many of us, that when Inkosi uShaka Zulu is mentioned, the first image that pops up was his (Henry Cele) and without doubt his legacy has guided the direction and performance style of Shaka Zulu ‘The gaping wound’. King Shaka’s story has many versions tied onto his reign, some interpretations focused on his strength and greatness, and how he conquered nations. Meshack Mavuso managed to cast strong performers. Through the thrum of drums and spiritually amplified harmonies, they carried the story forward. 

It must be said that the musical is not only about song and dance, but also about the themes of being uZulu, in a Zulu nation, and it is about portraying a story so well loved in its province, but somehow the play lost its reverence, essence and relatability because the play was told in English.

The play had moments of beauty and dullness. Due to articulation and enunciation, certain scenes dragged. Nonetheless, this play highlighted an important layer - ‘the meeting of three’ - which is when Dingane, Mbopha KaSithayi and Mhlangana plot to kill King Shaka, interestingly in the play emphasize that a woman ‘uMkabayi’ instigates and plants the bad seed, and quickly watches as it sprouts, particularly the scene was truly poignant and strong to watch.

This ignited my interest in the knowledge that when a story is redundant, find something else to say, something that the audience could take home. Seeing a woman taking charge in that manner, gave a complex yet beautiful representation of woman, under the GBV climate.

The scene left the audience engaged and enthralled by the intimacy of that performance; musically and the dialogue held the whole play, also the scene re-imagined King Shaka as a human, which was interesting to navigate as an audience.

Shaka Zulu ‘The gaping wound’ runs in The Playhouse until May 28, 2022. Booking is at WebTickets. – Philisiwe Twijnstra