Storytelling from South Africa with mixed results at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
This article is from 2014.
The Zulus were a warrior nation who ruled over much of Southern Africa before the colonial armies arrived in the early 20th century. In The Zulu, Grammy-award winning actor and theatre director Mbongeni Ngema uses the storytelling tradition of the Zulu culture to recall the history of the tribe, in particular its rise in prominence under its leader Shaka in the 19th century and the violent battles to maintain its stronghold in the following decades.
It begins in energetic fashion with a burst of traditional song as Ngema and another, younger, actor come on stage in tribal costume. Ngema sets the scene by describing how his blind grandmother used to sit him down and tell him stories from the history of the Zulu, as he relates these stories to his younger 'self'.
Ngema gives a passionate and committed performance and it's fascinating to hear how the actor's own ancestors were connected to the events he's describing. But after a while The Zulu becomes laden down with so much historical information. For those with a particular interest in this period, Ngema's performance adds life to the history, but for audience members with a more casual interest the play is at times more of a struggle to engage with.
Assembly Hall, 623 3030, until 25 Aug, 12.45pm, £13 (£12).