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Friday, October 20, 2023



(Pic by Val Adamson)


Letters Adrift at Sea…

The duo is excellent at creating gripping audiences through dramatic theatre. (Review by Verne Rowin Munsamy)

The Durban University of Technology’s Drama and Production Studies programme presents ABAMZINA: Dialogues with the Drowned. This devised, testimonial styled, dramatically sentimental theatre piece is directed by Dr Tamar Meskin and Dr Tanya van der Walt, both of whom have created a history together of making theatre that nostalgically reflected of the past through shows like Frontlines, Bloodlines and Metamorphases.

The duo is excellent at creating gripping audiences through dramatic theatre. The set was attractive from the beginning and as you wonder through this story, you notice new nuances to the wooden panels shaped like the sides of a ship. The set, lighting, videography and sound was designed by Stephen Woodroffe with set construction by Rogers Ganesan. I particularly enjoyed the projections of the African savannah, water and hutments, soldiers and Table Mountain on the wood panelled set. Aesthetically, the ambiance was nostalgic and inviting.

The heart-wrenching story tells of the true historic event of the loss of over 600 men who drowned when their ship, the SS Mendi, which was headed to Europe to fight in a war, was rammed by another ship and sank off the Isle of Wight. Most of the men who died were black men from South Africa who volunteered to serve in the SA Native Labour Corps.

These men were not given weapons but instead used, for example, in the kitchens and given basic training. These men left their homes, and families and yet, after their death, apartheid denied them their rightful status as heroes of the struggle. This production gives a voice to these men, the spoils of war, and allows for their histories to be reflected in the rich tapestry of South African culture. I enjoyed the multilingual focus, the light humour that was strategically placed to break tensions and the choral verse delivery of lines spliced between readings of letters.

There were a few tentative opening night pauses and some of the choreography could have improved with a few more rehearsals but the second-year students do well to portray what could have been the events leading up to the men’s departure and the aftermath of death in the freezing cold waters.

The ensemble work must be applauded; however, there were a few outstanding performances from Ncebo Bhengu, Buyani Dlamini, Luyanda Mbatha, Lindani Mdluli, Lungile Dlamini, Mandisa Mnguni, Akhona Mhlungu, and Celamusa Buthelezi. I was highly impressed by the live guitarist on stage, Ben van der Walt.

The end moment was very touching as actors spoke the names of these 607 men and places stones in piles to commemorate their sacrifices for their country. This was a sensitive piece that was well executed by all those involved, including a long list of assistant directors.

Final performance tonight (Friday October 20) at the Courtyard Theatre at DUT at 18h00. For reservations contact Bawinile on 031 373 2194 or email - Verne Rowin Munsamy