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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

JIMBO (article first published : 2006-07-13; last edited : 2008-09-7)

Every major city in the world has its community of hoboes – sleeping on doorsteps or pavements, in parks or alleyways or under bridges - their only covering a threadbare blanket, cardboard boxes or sheets of plastic. Ever wondered what put them there? What change of fortune altered their lives to seek this kind of existence?

A hobo represents the title character of Hamish Kyd’s Jimbo which was originally presented in Durban as part of the Playhouse Company’s Kwasa Community Theatre Development Project. It has blazed back to the Playhouse Drama 13 years on, the only member of the original cast being Hamish Kyd.

Directed once again by Themi Venturas with its original music by Siva Devar and lyrics by Hamish Kyd and Themi Venturas, Jimbo is set in the 1960s and ’70s. It focuses on the city’s coloured community and depicts the street life of Durban’s Indian Market and Warwick Triangle.

The musical tells the story of misfits Jimbo and his wife Natasha who live on the streets. These drink-sodden leading characters and their highly amusing quarrelsome existence are beautifully portrayed by Percy Smith in what marks a first major dramatic role for him and an utterly unrecognisable, deliciously scruffy and volatile Jailoshini Naidoo.

There are good performances all round – “T-Bone” Hlahane reminding us that he’s got a fine singing voice, Quincy Fynn in a slow-motion knockabout zol-smoking scene and Afzal Khan playing a number of roles. Also featured are Vivian Moodley and Gugu Mzobe with Daniel Watson and Grant Jacobs playing the youngsters caught up in the gang warfare. Alongside our new mainstream actors - Gareth Purchase, Jacobus van Heerden and Thabo Mnguni - the young Natasha (Cindy Ngidi) is a singing talent to watch. Besides well-known dancers in the line-up, it was a delight to see so many new faces on the stage from Durban’s up and coming young talent.

Jimbo deals with the seamy side of life with gangs, guns, murder, abuse and double dealings. With 13 years under our belt, a new dispensation and much welcomed democracy since the first staging of the show, it is still an inescapable fact that we are living in a crime-ridden society where unprovoked violence and killing have become a daily occurrence, reaching all levels of communities. Against this climate of battling to combat crime, I have a problem with “celebrating” gangsterism. Perhaps the scene where we discover that Jimbo wants to get out of the gangster business could have been echoed more strongly earlier in the production. There were also major sound problems which must be rectified.

However, these comments aside, Jimbo is set to repeat the success of its premiere season when it played to packed houses. Melvin Peters leads an excellent four-piece band and Percy Smith’s rendition of the slower ballads was beautiful. Ebrahim Medell's choreography is vibrant and energetic.

Jimbo runs in the Playhouse Drama from July 11 to 23. Tickets pre-booked from R20 to R45 (R30 to R55 at the door). Book through Computicket on 083 915 8000 or Playhouse Dial-A-Seat on 031 369 9596 or 031 369 9540. Bookings for a sold performance, call Mala on 031 369 9456. – Caroline Smart




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