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KWAZULU PLACE OF HEAVEN, WOZANI! (article first published : 2007-05-9)

Written and directed by Bonginkosi Shangase, whose musical Maluju Zulu was successfully staged by the Playhouse Company in December 2006, Kwazulu Place of Heaven, Wozani is an edu-tainment piece that showcases the heritage of KZN through Zulu dance, song, poetry and narration. It is presented by The Playhouse Company as part of its New Stages programme and musical direction is by Sergeant Malishe.

In an hour-plus show, audiences are taken on a speedy journey through the history of the people of the Zulu Kingdom.

Unfortunately the programme doesn’t indicate who takes which parts but mention must be made of the narrator, an amiable and forthright performer who endears himself to the audience from the start. Opening the show, a young female singer dressed in traditional Zulu attire impresses with her dramatic skills and good singing voice. A vigorous praise-singer had the audience responding with loud ululations and cheers.

The 30-strong cast give of their all and what they lack in musicality (sometimes they were really off-key), they certainly make up for in energy and dedication. There are some nice little cameos with actors in traditional dress as maidens or Zulu warriors playing childhood games, grinding corn or stick fighting. The music also moves through maskanda, an amusing section of isicathamiya and the Shembe culture.

I am not sure where Bonginkosi wishes to channel his show but Kwazulu Place of Heaven, Wozani! is more of a promotional tourism vehicle than a structured dramatic production. If it is to be presented to overseas audiences – presumably either on tour or at local conferences in South Africa – more attention needs to be given to certain inaccuracies of costume. It would also benefit from some pruning, bringing the running time down to an hour. The curtain call should move at twice the speed.

While much is talked about the highly diverse cultures of the city of Durban, only a cursory nod was given to Indian dance. Unless the production features all the cultures – classical South Indian as well as North Indian and the Bollywood culture (we do have the highest Indian population outside of India, after all) not to mention Portuguese, Greek, Irish, Scottish, Afrikaans, etc, it would be better not to include them at all. Rather stay with a celebration of Zulu culture.

Performances of Kwazulu Place of Heaven, Wozani! are on May 7 at 19h00; May 9 and 10 at 11h00; May 11 at 19h00 and May 12 at 15h00. Tickets R30 booked through Computicket on 083 915 8000 or the Playhouse Box Office during office hours on 031 369 9540. – Caroline Smart




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