The story of the SS Mendi – South Africa’s so-called ‘Black Titanic’ – is undeniably powerful.
The performers of Isango Ensemble are undeniably talented.
Brisbane Festival securing a company of this calibre is an undeniable coup.
Yet, for all it had going for it, I simply couldn’t connect to ‘SS Mendi: Dancing the Death Drill’.
In my honest opinion, it was a patchy production – there were parts that resonated and evoked a mighty response and others that simply fell flat and failed to fire.
My feelings were best encapsulated near the end when a performer addressed the audience, forcefully declaring: “This story needs to be told. Our story needs to be told.”
This preaching led me to feel as though there was very little room for my own inferences and conclusions; that when I started to feel swept away by the action, I was soon dragged back to the classroom be schooled and lectured.
These gripes aside, I couldn’t argue with the talent on stage.
There is light among the shade, humour among the tragedy, and hope among the grim reality.
Voices lifted in glorious harmony, bodies contorted to become the set and props, and basic items were repurposed to produce the most whimsical and atmospheric percussive sounds.