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TIN BUCKET DRUM (article first published : 2007-04-27)

Written and conceived by Neil Coppen, directed by Karen Logan and performed by Ntando Cele, Tin Bucket Drum first hove into view last year when it appeared on the fringe of the 2006 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. For some reason which I cannot remember, I wasn’t able to see it and asked Luke Thomas to review it for me (see his review in Festival archives).

His comments were: “Ntando Cele’s performance is outstanding, amazingly disciplined and highly entertaining. Her mobile face can change from an innocent young child’s to that of an extortionate politician in an instant. Move over Gcina Mhlope!”

Since then, I always seem to have been somewhere else when this magical piece of theatre has been performed. However, the gods were smiling this week - its final run at Kwasuka Cutting Edge Theatre - so at last I managed to see for myself this theatre piece that has attracted such critical acclaim.

This acclaim is justifiable and, apart from my complaint that the evocative background music is just 10% too strong - forcing Ntando to compete with it rather that flow with it - I certainly loved the play

Told alongside Wake Mahlobo’s finely sensitive live percussive accompaniment, Tin Bucket Drum tells the tale of a refugee child born into a village ruled by a despot known as Silent Sir. He has ruled that there will be silence in his land – we discover later that this ruling lies in a nefarious agreement of commercial personal gain between him and foreign tin manufacturers who wanted to shut down the tin mines close to the village.

Nomvula – who becomes known as the Little Drummer Girl – has a heartbeat that is strong and disturbing. From her early years when she uses her knife and fork as drumsticks, she itches to create rhythms – even a matchbox will do the trick. This gets her into much trouble with Silent Sir who eventually banishes her beyond the village. There she must stay until the rain comes. And since it hasn’t rained in this part of the world for 20 years, he thinks he’s got rid of her. But he has underestimated Nomvula’s tenacity as well as the power of creativity.

Throughout the production, Ntando takes on a number of roles: her gentle mother; the old man who befriends them; the megalomaniac Silent Sir; her headmistress with a swaying bottom; her fellow pupils at school, and gossiping members of the community. Each character is clearly drawn and Ntando moves graciously and evenly through her story with compelling sincerity.

All congratulations to the creative team of Neil Coppen and Karen Logan. Rosanne Immerman has designed a simple yet attractive multi-layered costume and Mike Broderick’s lighting allows the audience to move backwards and forwards from shadow play to realism.

Tin Bucket Drum has a few more performances at Kwasuka Cutting Edge Theatre but tickets are only available for the performance on April 28 at 20h00 and for an extra show on April 29 at 18h00. Please remember that Kwasuka has no air-conditioning at present, so dress in lightweight fabrics!

Tickets R50 (R25 student and pensioners) booked through the Catalina/Kwasuka booking office on 031 305 6889. Don’t miss it! – Caroline Smart




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