Backstreet Durban in the sixties

2009-07-30 00:00

REVIEW: Jimbo

Playhouse Drama Theatre

 

WHEN creating Jimbo, Hamish Kyd drew on his own experiences growing up in the coloured community in South Africa, and that helps lend a real edge of authenticity to the musical which can be seen at The Playhouse until August 9.

First staged in 1993, this revival is directed by Themi Venturas, and features music by Siva Devar and lyrics by Kyd and Venturas.

It opens with two hobos, Jimbo (Percy Smith) and Natasha (Jailoshini Naidoo), who find themselves somewhat unexpectedly in front of an audience. To keep the “mense” happy, Jimbo decides to tell them his life story.

Cue a flashback to Durban in the sixties and seventies, and more specifically the Indian Market and Warwick Triangle. Here we meet the young Jimbo and his brother, Diamond, who have been encouraged to leave home by their mother who is regularly beaten by their father.

Hungry, the pair decide to steal some fruit, but they’re less than successful and are forced to part with what little money they have by the stallholder, Vishnu (played by Hamish Kyd). Then the local heavies arrive and demand protection money and Diamond’s apple. When he confronts the leader, Stets (Sam Marais), he orders the gang to murder the youngster.

Left alone, Jimbo is convinced by Vishnu to take revenge. It’s a decision which puts him on a path of murder and mayhem from which he never escapes.

The hobo, Natasha, is a great character and Naidoo clearly has loads of fun playing her. But she also manages to bring an element of pathos to the role, best illustrated in the scene when she agonises over giving up her only child.

Smith, meanwhile, is in good form as Jimbo, the gang leader who chooses to go to prison to get out of his life of crime. His rendition of the solo, Hey Boy, is especially good and very moving.

There are also great performances from Marais in the number I’m so High, Teboho “T-Bone” Hlahane as Fingers in No Fear Boy, and Marcia Mzindle as the young Natasha in I Tried To Change Him.

Unfortunately, there were moments where the sound quality was a problem. Hopefully this was just an opening night glitch.

 

 

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