In the last 2 months the Durban Theatre scene has glowed with different kinds of excellence in an environment that continues to be challenging and difficult. Beginning with the superb Sweeney Todd by KickstArt, directed by Steven Stead and designed by Greg King. This production of a difficult musical for both performers and audience was pulled off with great aplomb. The complex music and drama was suberbly executed and once the audience realised its quality, they turned up to watch the show at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre. Elizabeth Sneddon herself, had she been a fan of musical theatre, would’ve been proud. An evocative and moving production. For me this production was worthy of the West End. Importantly, the cast was largely from Durban. I love seeing former PANSA Young Performers like Rory Booth, Haydn Henning & Dominique Le Grange doing so well. I would love to see KickstArt using more black performers as well. For me, it would be the cherry on an already well-iced cake!
Down the hill at the Playhouse Theatre another Durban gem in the form of of Neil Coppen’s Thinktheatre staged George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Another classic of Western literature adapted by Coppen with an all-African cast. A superb production starring one of my favourite performers, Mphume Mthombeni. I love the way Neil can make theatre with such a clear African voice with essentially Western material. Yes, Orwell’s work speaks volumes to all, but Coppen manages to conjure African magic.
Staying downtown Clinton Philander and The Reals excelled in my mini-musical Air Guitar. I created this piece ten years ago as a vehicle for the multi-talented Clinton Philander. His comic ability and amazingly versatile vocals are an example for any aspiring young performer. Once again, another young talent in the form of Cuan Austin was discovered and launched at the Catalina Theatre. One can safely argue that no other theatre in Durban has discovered and launched as many careers as the Catalina Theatre at Wilson’s Wharf.
Back up the hill again, the Jomba African Contemporary Dance festival under the leadership of the visionary Lliane Loots celebrated the dancers and dance companies of the region. Despite a harrowing funding crisis, Lliane and others still manage to keep Terpsichore, the Muse of the dance, smiling, or should she be called uTerpi.
Finally, several Durban performers jet off to Europe to participate in the final leg of the Hopes & Memories project. The rehearsal phase takes place in France and dancers Mduduzi Mtshali and Vusi Makhanya, musician Ildo Nandja, and singer Thabang Edward Phiri will join myself and others from France, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic to stage the new operatic drama entitled The Last Anniversary. After the world premiere in Riom es Montagne in France, the production will tour to Budapest, Bratislava and Prague before returning to South Africa where it will play Durban and Johannesburg.