NAF2019 Review: Umthombo

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The creative team from Amandla Danca Teatro ZA do not cease to amaze with yet another Standard Bank Ovation award-winning production. Having won the Silver award in 2018 for their production of Emathongeni, this year sees their new production, Umthombo, receive an Ovation nod.

Umthombo is the story of wedding entertainer Nonzwakazi, who is married to one of the greatest Yoruba huntsmen, Oxossi. Nonzwakazi is unable to dance at Nana Aja’s granddaughter’s wedding, so the old lady cursed Oxossi, turning him into a snake with seven heads. To break the curse, Nonzwakazi must dance at eight weddings around Africa. We are introduced to Nigeria, Botswana as well as other cultures through the stylized choreography and colourful costumes.

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Umthombo at the National Arts Festival (Photo Credit: Mark Wessels)

The colourful production is written and directed by Mkhululi Mabija and excellently executed by a cast of over 80 performers with the youngest only 4 years old. The direction makes efficient use of the space as well as allows the performers to shine in their respective roles. Through the musical compositions by Bangiwe and Dattie Capelli, we are able to appreciate the hard work and patience that went into producing this work. Bangiwe’s choreography is intricate yet simple, enough to be performed by a mainly young and untrained cast.

Though the sound at the Centenary Hall let the production down, the performers kept the high-paced energy and made sure that the audience got their money’s worth and then some. You wouldn’t be wrong if you mistook this Fringe production for a production on the Main stage as it rivalled many professional theatre productions with a cast made up almost entirely of children and boosted by the presence of professionals. This is a production that showcases the brilliance of some of the lesser-known communities within the arts and deserves to be seen on stages the world over.

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