Celebrating the strengths and challenges of African Womanhood

2010-08-05 00:00


Playhouse Drama Theatre


“WHAT a beautiful show” was the comment I heard as the audience moved out of the Playhouse Drama Theatre after seeing the internationally celebrated musical, African Mamas.

I couldn’t have agreed more. It was a glorious evening of beautiful performances, top- class direction, vibrant music with good sound quality and excellent lighting and set design — all in celebration of the strengths and challenges of African womanhood. A perfect choice to open The Playhouse Company’s 14th South African Women’s Arts Festival.

Another memorable aspect of the evening was the guest appearance in the show of three legendary South African jazz megastars — Abigail Kubeka, Thandi Klaasen and Dorothy Masuka, who performed in memory of their friend and colleague, the late Busi Mhlongo. What a thrill for the cast and musicians to share the same stage with them.

Essentially a vehicle to showcase some of the best contemporary music South Africa has produced, African Mamas is designed by Andrew Botha and Stan Knight, well-known in Durban for their collaborations in musicals directed by the late Geoffrey Sutherland.

Its simple but effective storyline focuses on a young girl who is fortunate enough to have a group of strong women guiding her on her road to adulthood.

Dressed in the highly attractive African haute couture styles of today, each performer shines with her individual skills, making them a compelling team to watch. Among them are KwaZulu-Natal’s Nomasonto Khumalo, a fine actress and singer who appeared in several Mbongeni Ngema productions, and Lucia Gumede, whose torchy tones resemble Eartha Kitt.

Alongside them are Vicky Vilakazi, Londiwe Mthembu, Thembisile Portia, Aveline Twala, Nompumelelo Nhlapho, Edith Mudau and Mercy Meruti. Slindile Ntini, an audience favourite, is the vocal coach and responsible for the group’s accurate harmonies. Amo Chidi is pure enchantment as the young girl — delightful and outspoken, without being precocious.

There’s one more guiding spirit in the form of Mpumi Nhlapo who is the percussionist in the all-male band. The combo provides tight, first-rate backing with clever arrangements ranging from isicathamiya to pop.

Gentlemen, please be assured that this is not a male-bashing exercise. In fact the men seated around me were as enthusiastic in their response as the females.

(Courtesy of Artsmart.co.za)



• African Mamas runs in the Playhouse Drama Theatre until August 8 with performances at 7.30 pm. Sunday’s performance is at 2.30 pm. Schools performances on August 5 at 11.30 am. Tickets R80 and R95 (R35 pupils) from Computicket.

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