Theatrical magic

2010-10-14 00:00

Review: Tin Bucket Drum

Playhouse Loft Theatre


A BEAUTIFUL story, simply told, and a moving, powerful, performance combine in Neil Coppen’s Tin Bucket Drum to deliver one of the best evenings of theatre I’ve been privileged to see.

Mpume Mthombeni is like a chameleon as she moves from character to character: one minute a child filled with innocence and joy; then an elderly man, crippled by torture, but determined to be true to himself; then a government stooge determined to enforce the state’s rule that no music or dancing is permitted in Tin Town.

To help tell the story Mthombeni uses a table, a red cloth, hats and the tin buckets of the title. And throughout the piece Wake Mahlobo’s amazing percussion skills help bring to life everything from rain drops to gunshots.

Tin Bucket Drum tells the story of Nomvula, a young girl born in a mining town with a heart that beats louder than a drum. Ordered to hide her child from the world, Nomvula’s mother, Nandi, cannot stop her from finding rhythm in everything she encounters.

Infuriated by the little drummer girl’s ‘rebellion’ the state declares her a ‘weapon of mass disturbance’ and banishes her to the water wells on the outskirts of the town. Here she is forced to carry water to the residents all day long.

But not even this punishing work can stop her heart beating out a passionate rhythm and when the rains begin to fall after 20 years of drought, Nomvula chooses to defy the dictator’s decree, no matter what the cost.

Not only is this play real theatrical magic, but Coppen’s words seem especially pertinent at a time when South Africans are confronted on a daily basis by stories of corruption and new threats to freedom of expression.

Like Nomvula, we citizens need to stand up, be counted and make our voices heard.


• Tin Bucket Drum opened this year’s New Stages programme at the Playhouse in Durban and is set to tour Swaziland, Zimbabwe and New York next year. Mpume Mthombeni shares the role with Thuli Zuma, the daughter of President Jacob Zuma and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

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