A Play with Music by Marcus Heath
Music: Duncan Walsh-Atkins, Marcus Heath, Iain Storey
Dramaturgy: Terry Newman
Napoleon Noir is an exhilarating exploration of the life of one of history’s forgotten black heroes – Toussaint L’Ouverture, the Haitian revolutionary who realized a brief but triumphant moment of freedom for his enslaved people at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
This was a defining moment in history. For the first time a former slave had attained self-rule in a colonial territory at a time of shifting political allegiances between the major colonial powers. Haiti (then known as San Domingo) had been a jewel in the crown of the French empire, being militarily strategic and rich in mineral and agricultural resources.
Outraged, Napoleon Bonaparte despatches a crack military force, charged with ousting the charismatic leader. This force is led by his glamorous sister Pauline and her husband, General Le Clerc. Napoleon has promised Pauline the island of San Domingo, but he has also pledged the prize to her husband. Toussaint must prepare for the struggle to maintain his liberation and dignity. It is against this background that the play finds its basis and substance.
The haunting music, inspired by the melodies and harmony of African song, complements the rich dialogue of the play. Interludes of authentic and pulsating voodoo and African dance performed on an ingenious set in colourful costume by the ensemble cast afford the piece the vibrancy of the ‘Lion King’.
Since 2002, the musical showcase ‘Africa- Africa’, Written and Directed by Iain Storey has toured theatres throughout, England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia and Russia.
The new revised version of Africa -Africa, subtitled Giya Ngengoma, offers a kaleidoscope of indigenous talent, ranging from ancient traditional to contemporary and includes a wide spectrum of dynamic song and dance genre.
This Musical Mirrors the essence of the mighty Zulu Nation from The Kingdom of KwaZulu Natal.
This production captures the fascinating Proposal, Engagement and Wedding Ceremony as Performed before the missionaries came to South Africa bringing with them their Christian influence and teachings.
The powerful Sangoma or Zulu Witch Doctor as he is often referred to plays a significant unifying roll in this production. The Story is about a young apprentice Witch Doctor who discovers while reading the bones, he is soon to be married. However his bride to be, is the daughter of a chief who once laid claim to ten cows belonging to his family.
He views this wedding as an opportunity to cunningly claim back the ten cows belonging to his father and this he manages to accomplish with the assistance of Dlondlobala the mighty Witch Doctor.
Perhaps the most outstanding merit of this production besides the dynamic visual impact of the performers as they weave a pattern of cultural intrigue is undoubtedly the variety of songs and there contrast in style and technique that provides for an entertaining kaleidoscope of splendid vocal harmony .
The added dynamic dimension of the energetic Traditional Ngoma Dance Sequences is indeed the highlight of the show.
'The voices of the cast are just incredible and the raising beat of the drums, the most important tribal possession, appear to work the cast into a frenzy'
By Vicky Watts
It's not often that I find myself speechless but on Thursday 18th April at the Tivoli Theatre in Winborne the impossible happened. I was quiet for at least a couple of hours. The Africa Africa production was just amazing.
The production is effectively a potted history of the Zulu nations culture and foundation cleverly put together with traditional Zulu dance and song. The voices of the cast are just incredible and the raising beat of the drums, the most important tribal possession, appear to work the cast ( and if youre lucky the audience) into a frenzy.
The stage presence that the witch doctor commands is intence. His voice is incredibly deep and put together with the fantastic voices of the rest of the cast is really very stirring. Within the plot is a very carefully constructed educational factor- you leave the theartre feeling that you understand and admire the Zulu culture so much more than before.
This review really cannot do justice to this production. The only words I really feel can convey my feelings after seeing the show are WOW, AMAZING, FANTASTIC, VIBRANT and UPLIFTING - even those words fall short.
A fiery red and the beat of drums introduced a colourful experience. This story of warfare, love and revenge took the audience through the life, times and culture of native Africa.
By Alan Watkins. Courtesy of Dartford Messenger
And who better to introduce the 500-strong north Kent audience to a world where religion, homes and perceptions are so radically different to our own than the Zulu people Of KwaZulu-Natal. The rich singing was wonderful, particularly the deep bass of their flamboyantly dressed witch doctor. He dominated the theatre like a great Russian basso profundo.
The sound of war the 11 performers created assailed your ears, Imagine then what it must have been like at Rorkes Drift in January 1879 when a Royal Engineer from Brompton led the defence against 4,000 Zulu warriors. Cow hide shields and the iKlwa, or stabbing spear, were beaten.
The dancers forefathers must have shaken the foundations of the fort,and sent tsunamis up the backs of the British defenders. But with a song called Stop the Fighting, Stop the War The singers told us how they finally found peace. But not until the mothers had mourned the dead: here was raw emotion, Perhaps tainted by the recent memories of uniting South Africa. Forged in blood, and honed by conquest, their show was tempered by humour, Joy and good old romance. This was magic to see and a joy to hear.
'African passion and drama explodes onto the stage in this vivid spectacle casting a sublime spell'
Louise Nibbs. Courtesy of Jersey Evening Post
You never, ever know how a Jersey audience is going to react to a production which threatens to be just a little bit different, but there was no doubt that the decision to bring something which was utterly unique to the Opera House was a success last night, as a nearly full house sat down to experience the magic of the Zulu nation.
The Airport had already been taken by storm on Friday by the colourful and prominent arrival of the cast, who used the Arrivals hall as their first stage, but they made their presence equally as felt at the Opera House with a riot of colour and song.
The first lesson was that you dont need a complicated, all-singing, all dancing set to be able to tell a great and powerful storey of years of history, when the cast are doing both of those things with admirable ease. Mesmerising.
The audience were presented with the bare bones of a story, and an invitation to join in the culture of the Zulu nation has been which has been one of peace and turmoil throughout the years. From the humour of a witchdoctor reading the bones, to the moving song of a mother wishing her son well before he headed into battle, this was a two-hour journey for the audience which reflected the everyday life and events of the Zulu community, as well the excitement and events of the Zulu community, as well the excitement and fear which is felt by a group of people in times of joy or trouble.
It was the raw physicality of the movement, the passion of the dancing ,and vivid costumes which marked this out as being a show to remember, but pure voices, whether there was just one echoing around the auditorium, or a mass of rich sound, was the element which seemed to be holding most of the audience spellbound. There was no backing music, no pre-recorded tape for the performers to mime to, no help at all, just pure voice, sometimes backed with a powerful drum beat, and the effect was mesmerising.
In case anyone is going tonight, or was there last night, and thought the whole thing was excellent but would like to know a bit more, heres the basic story. The production follows the tradition Zulu proposal, engagement and the wedding ceremony performed the way it have been done before the Christian missionaries reached South Africa, and the importance of the witch doctor in such events.
The story follows a young apprentice witch doctor who, while reading the bones, discovers that he is soon to be married. As fate would have it, his bride to be is the daughter of a chief who once said laid claim to ten of his finest cows when the two herds became mixed up. As well as a change to get married, the witch doctor is delighted that the wedding will give him a chance to win back the ten cows which belong to his father. Luckily for him, Dondlobala the mighty witch doctor is on hand to help him achieve his goal.
On a different level, this production brought across the message that prized possessions are to be treasured , and the fact that the Zulu people had a great pride both in Natal, and each other, was nearly tangible. Whether they were facing times of hardship or of celebration, they acted as a unit, and supported each other.
If, tonight, you are debating whether to stay in and watch Coronation Street and East Enders, or are nearly tempted to book a ticket to see Africa Africa , choose option two. Afriac doesnt arrive in Jersey often enough to miss out.
For festivals, theatre & corporate bookings please contact: Chrissie Clarke. Tel: 0208 4230470. Email :firstname.lastname@example.org
For schools bookings please contact: Iain Storey. Tel:01484 351436, Mobile: 0788 4104832, Email: email@example.com