Madiba the Musical is both informative and entertaining. This tribute to human rights activist Nelson Mandela is powerful and evocative, teaching us to love one another—despite the colour of our skin.
South Africa’s political emancipation and Mandela’s freedom are celebrated through an uplifting song and dance that will make you clap along without even realising it.
The use of on-stage props was minimal; instead, the cast performed with the help of a digital backdrop, incorporating drawings and props into the story, which worked really well for a modern production.
Mandela’s message of freedom and equality really hits home in some scenes, so have your tissues ready. I found it very powerful to see white supremacy and, as Mandela said, “by default, black inferiority”, being portrayed so clearly, along with the struggle of an inter-racial relationship during the apartheid.
This well-written musical has summarised the 95-year-life of Nelson Mandela into just under two and a half hours of entertainment. The writers chose to focus on the South African climate and the stories of those around Mandela at the time of his incarceration and freedom.
From breakdancing, popping and isolations to African tribal dancing and even stepping, the production incorporated pop-culture into an old story, making it relevant for a 2019 audience and demonstrating the casts’ versatility as performers.
The show opens with a spotlight on one man, our narrator, who directly addresses the audience, communicating with rap and by isolating body parts through dance. This poetic and gentle introduction sets the tone for the modern interpretation of Mandela’s life.
In a flurry of song, bare feet and lively, tribal African dancing, we’re introduced to the cast and ensemble. We meet Mandela, performed by Perci Moeketsi, when he enters centre stage and thrusts his fist into the air on cue with the casts’ chorus of “Madiba!” This is the name of Mandela’s clan.
Moeketsi’s representation of Mandela is impeccable, from his composed, slow-paced African accent, through to his elbow-driven dancing. Although I expected the title character to sing a little more, the performance worked well as a primarily spoken role which balanced out the other characters like Winnie Mandela, Sam Onotou and William Xulu, whose stage time is mainly comprised of vocal performances.
As expected for a touring musical production, the vocal performances were very well executed. Nelson’s second wife, Winnie, is played by Ruva Ngwenya, an Australian-based singer/actor of Zimbabwean decent. Her soulful vocal performances were somewhat Aretha-like, and her sassy execution will light a fire in your belly and resonate with your soul.
Perth’s own Tim ‘Timomatic’ Omaji, who played Sam Onotou, didn’t disappoint. Switching his Aussie accent for a South African one, which he maintained both in song and monologue, through handstands and sing-offs. Onotou’s anger towards South Africa’s policies is easy to empathise with and his transformation shows Mandela’s ability to affect all those around him.
Madiba was written by French writers Jean-Pierre Hadida and Alicia Sebrien who believe that music and dance are universal languages that can reconcile nations, cultures, religions and generations.
The cast of the Australian tour have delivered a tribute to Nelson Mandela that’s definitely unifying. This is the first English language production of Madiba, and it’s currently in Perth. I encourage you to experience the rollercoaster of emotions for yourself as a prison resident becomes a President.
Madiba the Musical is running at Crown until January 12.Tickets available here.