Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2014: South African theatre shows

This article is from 2014

Edinburgh Festival 2014: Theatre of the commonwealth


Featuring David Mamet's Race, Mbongeni Ngema's The Zulu and Magadi: The Bride Price

'It's great to be able to present a range of work from this very vibrant country,' says William Burdett-Coutts, artistic director of Assembly Festival, who are presenting their third South African season. 'There is a range of talented theatre people working in South Africa who have this vitality and interest in their own culture and how they represent it. No one can avoid the stigma of the apartheid era, but people are confronting the past and finding ways of defining themselves today.'

The boldness of The Playhouse Company is clear in their decision to bring Pulitzer Prize winner David Mamet’s controversial Race to Assembly. Enthusiastically received in South Africa, a country battling with the complexities of a post-apartheid society, Mamet's scripts have the ability to cross difficult areas and refuse any easy solutions: here, the partners in a law firm, one African-American, the other white, decide whether to take on the case of a wealthy white man accused of raping an African-American woman.

Mbongeni Ngema, who is returning to the stage after 27 years, says of The Zulu that 'the play could only have come from South Africa as it reflects the formation of the Zulu Nation by that awesome military genius King Shaka  Zulu.' Retelling stories passed on during Ngema's youth by his blind great-grandmother Mkutshana, it covers 'the arrival of white British and Boer settlers and their impact on the history of South Africa, culminating with the Anglo/Zulu War of 1879, the battle of Isandlwana, a great Zulu Victory.'

Yet Ngema is adamant that this does not represent South African theatre: 'This is a unique piece of theatre also new to South African audiences.' he says. 'It is a trend setter.' Combining music, ritual and performance, Ngema presents a compelling journey of personal identity.

Beyond Assembly, and from a musical perspective, Soweto-based African Tree Productions offer a variation on the classic tortured romance, Magadi: The Bride Price. Featuring a capella voices and traditional African dance, Magadi tells the tale of a modern African woman who meets her village childhood sweetheart, now a highly protected African Prince. (Jen Bowden)

Magadi: The Bride Price, Just the old Foundry Room, 556 5375, 31 Jul–24 Aug 2014 (not 12), 2.20pm, £9 (£8).
Race, Assembly George Square, 623 3030, 31 Jul–25 Aug (not 11, 20), 3.20pm, £13 (£12).
Zulu, Assembly Hall, 623 3030, 31 Jul–25 Aug (not 11, 20), 12.45pm, £13 (£12).

Magadi: The Bride Price

African Tree Productions Through drama, music and dance Magadi - The Bride Price takes the audience on a celebratory tour of the beauty of African customs. It is a celebration of love - love of another human being, love for who we are, what we have become and what we used to be.

Race by David Mamet

  • 4 stars

South African Season | The Playhouse Company and Assembly A hotel room in disarray: lamps broken, cigarette butts, liquor bottles, a red sequin dress and a man accused of rape. The accused, white. The accuser, black. Shame, guilt, class, sex, lies and race are proactively stirred together in this fast-paced piece by…

The Zulu

  • 3 stars

South African Season | Committed Artists Foundation and Assembly Grammy Award-winner and Tony Award nominee Mbongeni Ngema returns to the stage after 27 years to retell stories, told to him as a young boy growing up in the heart of Zululand, by his blind great grandmother, Mkutshana. The stories take us on a journey…