Stimela theatre show a stomping good time
Stimela 'The Gumboot Musical' South African voices and dance, Mthakathi Productions, Theatre Royal, Wednesday night, reviewed by Ruth Allison.
Choreographer and director, Thapelo Motloung, wanted his audience to leave happy and they did. The exuberance of the performers, their strength, their voices and their vigour injected everyone with energy: a standing ovation the ultimate appreciation.
Stimela was the train that brought the men from all over Africa to Johannesburg, 'the city of gold', to the mines for work and delivered them back a year later to their families.
In that year, despite hardships and sorrow, a closeness and a solidarity with their workmates was cemented. The main ingredient of that cement was music and dance. Whatever the situation, the music bound the men together.
For a full 60 minutes, 12 performers sang, slapped, stomped and danced the journey of the mine workers.
This was a show full of joy and laughter: a shortage of women? No worries, the lithe, taut bodies of the five dancers in sexy dresses attempting to enter the men's hostel rivalled any model on a catwalk.
The audience responded with catcalls and applause. You want a mine? No sweat (well actually there was plenty of that), instant scaffolding replicated the levels of the underground hell. Pay day? The passion and warmth of being able to send money home and drink yourself into a state of melancholy got you through the week.
Stimela showcased maleness of a kind unfamiliar to New Zealanders: men who are not afraid to sing deep, rich harmonies, a masculinity that does not need conflict or violence. These men of Africa were proud and fearless.
This show was far more than a musical but it did prove that music is indeed 'food for the soul'. I urge you to seriously consider going.