A Man Of Good Hope: A Very South African Musical ~ Adelaide Festival 2019 Review
[MUSIC ~ AUSTRALIAN PREMIERE ~ SOUTH AFRICA]
Royalty Theatre, Wed 6 Mar.
A Man Of Good Hope is an odd creature. It’s an uplifting musical built around a series of monologues directed to the audience interspersed with short scenes that describe the life of Asad Abdullahi that are about some of the darkest themes imaginable – female genital mutilation, war, death, pan-African and inter-African tensions as a legacy of colonialism. It’s a heavy show, but it also bursts with joy, strength, and, as the title suggests, hope.
It is hope that keeps Asad going when, as a child, his mother is shot in front of him during the Somalian Civil War. It is hope that spurs him across Africa, zig-zagging from Somalia to Kenya to Nairobi to Ethiopia, learning to use his charm and brains to survive. And it is hope that lands him in South Africa, where he becomes the victim of anti-refugee violence before finally, after 20 years, getting his immigration papers to America.
This story is told in the style of a partly-spoken, mostly-sung operetta, across several different languages including English and Xhosa, by the Isango Ensemble – a group of performers from South Africa who use music to create a vibrant, shifting soundscape of Africa. It is the sheer delight, as well as the impressive skill, of these performers that creates poignant contrasts between the awful, shattering events of Asad’s journey and the furious desire to live and live happily that drives him.
Refugee narratives are a common theme at both Fringe and Adelaide Festival this year, and it’s no secret as to why, given what we know about Manus and Nauru. These stories need to be told, and we desperately need to hear them. We should count ourselves lucky if all of them are told with as much heart and clear-eyed verve as Man Of Good Hope.
A Man Of Good Hope continues at Royalty Theatre, at various times, until Mon 11 Mar.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.
Image courtesy of Keith Pattison