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7 September, 2019

Wonderful song, dance and strong dialogue makes a powerful impact on the audience

Once seated, I noted the stark stage with no orchestra or props and the performers standing and waiting to perform.

I may not have understood the different African languages, tribal references or the historical circumstance but I did understand the emotional impact from the moment the performance began.

The script assumed that the Audience knew nothing of the SS Mendi tragedy and the complex story required insight into the impact of British Rule in South Africa.

The performers conveyed their story via dialogue, dance, percussion instruments, songs and sheer physicality.

It was a tale of desperation, exile, family farewells, tribal conflicts, poverty, loss, fear and death.

I loved the rhythm of the music, the high calibre of the beautiful professional singing.

I loved the simplicity of how this complex story was told.

Buckets of water used for ocean sounds, a tall bamboo was the ship’s mast, a rope was the ship’s balustrade and the sound of the whips so very loud.

The dominance of British Rule was conveyed in the dialogue between the white masters and the black conscripts.

The tribal warrior names meant nothing to the white masters and English names were allocated to the conscripts upon “signing up” for the voyage.

Their fierce pride and strong tribal identities were replaced only by fear, cruelty and death.

The performers chanted all the derogatory racist terms that the white masters used against and this truly emphasised the ignorance and cruelty behind those words.

Very uncomfortable to hear.

The emotions ranged from joy to rage, from anger to fear and the death drill scene was so hauntingly sad that I had goosebumps on my skin.

The sheer power of the story combined with how it was told was so awe-inspiring.

I knew nothing about this tragedy beforehand and now I cannot forget it.