MUSICAL – Madiba – Entertainment Centre – 3K

By Peter Maddern

The story of Nelson Mandela is a mighty one, not only as a tale of leadership and persistence for his people in South Africa but also as guide to how human behaviour ought to be conducted, even in the face of violent bullies.

Madiba is that story as a musical, starting off in the years where Mandela (Perci Moeketsi) was just a local lawyer trying to assist those on the wrong end of the law, often bad laws. It takes us through his incarceration, the change in attitudes that arose from it thanks to his wife Winnie (Ruva Ngwenya) to his release and ultimately the first democratic elections for South Africa.

In it we see hear of Mandela’s points of view to the circumstances he confronts and those of his oppressors, less often heard even if they make for no more pleasant  an argument than one might have otherwise imagined.

Narrated by David Denis, the story told also works off an inter-racial love between the daughter of the Police Commissioner, Peter Van Leden (Blake Erickson) and the son of his personal assistant, Sandy (Tarisai Vushe.)

Moeketsi is commendable as Mandela, successfully portraying all his now well-known personal characteristics, everything from his walk and stoop, to his voice, even his idiosyncratic dance moves. Ngwenya’s Winnie is a far more benign creature than we have come to witness the great man’s wife in her last years but her singing here is a highlight of the show; it was perhaps a pity that her presence was somewhat lost in the last quarter of the production. As the Narrator, David Denis, through his erudite demeanour and voice, delivered on being the modern face of black South Africa, though the opening hip-hop song seemed somewhat out of place.

The staging is remarkably sparse but clever use is made of a two level back drop that we see through a transparent curtain. The songs and music move the show along and the last few are well worth the price of admission. Otherwise the story telling and choreography is somewhat lame.

Given how big the barn is at the Entertainment Centre, paying the extra to be in the front middle block of seats is an investment worth making.

If being appraised again of the virtues of Mandela and the inspiration of his story is something you crave, then Madiba is a show for you.

Kryztoff Rating   3K

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