The pure joy of Kwela Bafana

2012-06-15 13:04

The problem with Kwela Bafana, the musical production running at The Market theatre, is that audiences are expected to watch while sitting on their chairs.

The show is too joyously infectious for that. People ought to be able to stand up and dance at will. But that’s another story about the tyranny of theatre etiquette.

Directed by Phyllis Klotz and Small Ndaba, Kwela Bafana takes us inside the electrified ambiance of a 1950s shebeen. The fashion, the booze and banter are resurrected on stage to the magic of that era’s music.

Memorable hits – such as Mackay Davashe’s Lakutshon’ilanga, Dorothy Masuku’s Handsome Boy and American jazz standards such as George Gershwin’s Summertime – make up the hot list of sing-along tunes.

The stories sketched out explore the lives of ordinary black South Africans in Sophiatown and their resolve to be defiantly festive against the backdrop of a tyrannical state.

To party becomes an act of protest. Even the terrible lives of a group of men who work as toilet bucket collectors are addressed with humour because only laughter can beat back the tears.

Velephi Khumalo plays Sis Peggy, the shebeen queen and songstress. She’s accompanied by her daughter, Ntombi, played by Sihle Ndaba.

They join a leading quartet of male vocalists in the chorus as elements that work to sustain the intensity that makes up the show’s ecstasy.

» Kwela Bafana is on at The Market theatre until June 24

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