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7 September, 2019

A story on the fringes long deserving of its time on centre stage

From the very first scene the ethereal, haunting harmonies wash over you, transporting you aboard the SS Mendi for its voyage in 1917.

Musically, the skill of the cast cannot be denied.

Whether it is passionate singing and joyful dancing, to subtle sound effects and purposefully placed props, the Isango Ensemble is polished.

The talented performers embody their roles, immersing themselves in their characters and purpose: to remind us all of those who were left behind.

Transitions between storytelling and interchanging characters flow from scene to scene, eventually breaking down the fourth wall and including the audience in moments of clarification and comedy.

In my honest opinion, SS Mendi was an enjoyable ride through a turbulent sea of the past.

I was in awe of some of the vocal talent and I appreciated the minimalist, rustic set design that was coupled with many weird and wonderful props and man-made musical instruments.

The sardonic humour used to highlight some of the more serious issues and the plight of those Mendi crew members prompted me to think on our present climate and reflect on the reach and success of similar themes and content.

In contrast, there is an Australian documentary on race playing to cinemas around the country with seemingly empty seats.

Before the boat sets sail forever, I wholeheartedly believe that there should be more productions such as SS Mendi: Dancing the Death Drill.

In the end, I wanted more.

More singing, dancing, props, instruments and more knowledge on this part of history.

Maybe I will get to see another wonderful Isango Ensemble production in the future.