Tale of hope and pain

2011-05-26 00:00

REVIEW: The Coolie Odyssey

The Hexagon Theatre

DESPITE my very Indian upbringing, my affiliation to the 150 years celebration of the arrival of indentured labourers was negligible. The history of the settlers seemed too distant to impact on me in any meaningful way, but Rajesh Gopie’s The Coolie Odyssey brought that history alive in a way that made me proud of my heritage.

The Coolie Odyssey contains a great combination of melodrama, humour, music and dance, making it an entertaining, educational night out for everyone.

However, the play doesn’t fall under Indian theatre and while it explores the identity of modern-day South African Indians and the Indian indentured labourers, the play is about diaspora of all descents.

It begins in modern-day Reservoir Hills, Durban, where a single Indian mother and her son fail to understand each other.

In a moment of un-enlightenment, a miracle happens and a monkey has a trans-karmic experience in which he remembers his past life as one of the indentured labourers in 1864, Ramlall Kihari.

Unable to speak, the monkey finds a typewriter and writes the story of his journey as Ramlall, from India to South Africa, and the hardships that he faced.

A tale of hope and pain, friendship and antagonism unfolds in an entertaining and heart-wrenching way that keeps the audience hooked, despite any predictability in the plot, and it is coupled with a diverse soundtrack, sung flawlessly by Anuraag Dhoundiyal.

The highlight of the play is the brilliant acting from every member of the cast, who all play more than one role.

The cast includes Avershree Maistry, Don Mosenye, Yateen Dayaram, Pranesh Maharaj and Conrad Kemp, with Rajesh Gopie playing the lead role.


• Rajesh Gopie’s play, The Coolie Odyssey, is at the Hexagon Theatre at UKZN Pietermaritzburg at 7.30 pm until Saturday. There will also be schools’ performances at 11 am today and tomorrow.

To book phone 033 260 5537.

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