Theatre Review: Sarafina! – Activism And Energy, Or Schooled By History


Bruce Dennill

Writer. Reader. Singer. Songwriter. Believer. Likes to learn.

All content by Bruce Dennill first published on pARTicipate, republished with permission.
Bruce Dennill


Sarafina! / Directed by Nhlanhla Ngema / The Mandela, Joburg Theatre, Braamfontein, Johannesburg

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Sarafina!, an original South African musical, was a Broadway success story in the late Eighties and has been revived a number of times ahead of this latest re-staging in Johannesburg. It’s adaptation as a big-budget film in 1992 also helped maintain the piece’s relatively high profile.

Parts of the show have aged better than others. The story centres around a class of youngsters at Soweto’s Morris Isaacson High School, from which some of the students involved in the Soweto Uprising on 16 June 1976 left, en route to Orlando Stadium. Those kids were protesting a law that made Afrikaans the primary language in which they were to be educated, and that same spirit of dissent runs through the narrative in Sarafina!, with the titular character (Noxolo Dlamini), who displays clear leadership qualities from the start, becoming increasingly radicalised and, as a…

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