SA en­ter­tain­ment got its wings as ‘King Kong’ launched the in­ter­na­tional ca­reers of the likes of Miriam Makeba

African Independent - - THEATRE -

to­wards the ring by a very ticked-off box­ing trainer.

A few rounds later, he kissed the can­vas and was left counting the stars above his head. When the wires in his head re­gained a sig­nal, he de­cided to join the box­ing club. Dlamini went on don­ner­ing all who came be­fore him on his way to the apex of his box­ing ca­reer – heavy­weight cham­pion.

They say by genes and blood­type Dlamini was a bully and a brag­gart. The lim­i­ta­tions of a black life dur­ing those dark days saw him fall from ring and life.

He found so­lace and com­fort in the waters of Baby­lon, and went about in­still­ing fear in peo­ple. Well­known and feared for ap­ply­ing his brand of jun­gle jus­tice, his in­tim­i­dat­ing fig­ure and per­son­al­ity was used at dance halls to man­age un­ruly pa­trons and other prob­lem­atic be­ings.

One night in an act of un­quan­tifi­able rage and jeal­ousy, Dlamini killed his girl­friend.

When the po­lice ar­rived, he re­fused to put his knife down, but the cops must have been happy to put their tar­get prac­tice lessons to use. They popped three bul­lets in him, but this was no or­di­nary man, this was “King Kong”.

A few days at the hos­pi­tal and he was ready to face the law’s mu­sic.

Per­haps in an at­tempt cor­ner his last op­po­nent, the law, Dlamini tried to in­struct jus­tice on how to deal with him and asked for the death penalty. But the judge un­der his gown and wig said ”12 years hard labour” be­fore the sound of his wooden ham­mer filled the room.

It was a his­toric moment when the cur­tain opened at the Fu­gard The­atre in Cape Town this week.

From the di­rec­tor to the lead, to the guy who just stands there do­ing God-knows-what, a team of tal­ents and creatives has been as­sem­bled.

Multiple award-win­ning ac­tress and singer-songwriter Non­du­miso Tembe will be recre­at­ing the role of Joyce, which pro­pelled Miriam Makeba to in­ter­na­tional fame in the orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion of King Kong.

“The piv­otal thing for me has been our vi­sion­ary di­rec­tor Jonathan Munby’s de­ci­sion for us to ap­proach this not as a re­vival, but as a re-imag­in­ing of the orig­i­nal piece, which has been so lib­er­at­ing be­cause that has given room for our own artis­tic in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

“I am so grate­ful I have been en­cour­aged to bring Joyce to life in a way that is unique and au­then­tic to me. So I am cel­e­brat­ing Miriam Makeba in my per­for­mance and hon­our­ing her ex­tra­or­di­nary le­gacy, but also mak­ing the role my own,” said Tembe.

“The mu­sic is in­cred­i­ble but ex­tremely chal­leng­ing. Our bril­liant MDs, Charl-Jo­han Lin­gen­felder and Sipumzo True­man Lucwaba, have been amaz­ing and so sup­port­ive in help­ing me find the right vo­cal ap­proach and tone – how to make these songs my own, how to use my strengths and help my voice shine at its best in this very dif­fi­cult singing role.

“Like­wise, Jonathan and our for­mi­da­ble chore­og­ra­pher, Gre­gory Maqoma, are help­ing me craft a per­for­mance that is dy­namic and nu­anced, bold and brave and com­pelling and that has emo­tional and psy­cho­log­i­cal depth. I am so grate­ful and very blessed to have such an amaz­ing sup­port sys­tem as I em­bark upon one of the most chal­leng­ing roles of my ca­reer.”

Ac­tor, singer and dancer Andile Gumbi, well known for the char­ac­ter Zweli in the pop­u­lar soap opera Isi­Baya, will take the ti­tle role. Gumbi made his Broad­way de­but as Simba in Dis­ney’s The Lion King and has starred in pro­duc­tions of this mu­si­cal in London, Syd­ney, Mel­bourne, Shang­hai and South Africa.

Asked how he re­lates to the story, Gumbi said: “It doesn’t re­late di­rectly but the story serves as a cau­tion­ary tale to us all to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for our own des­tinies.”

Mas­ter chore­og­ra­pher Maqoma has been roped in to cre­ate move­ment to the mu­sic of Todd Mat­shik­iza. “The most ex­cit­ing part about cre­at­ing the chore­og­ra­phy to Todd Mat­shik­iza’s mu­sic is that the mu­sic has many lay­ers and al­lows me to be imag­i­na­tive and to add other rhythms, which at times coun­ter­act the mu­sic, cre­at­ing a hy­brid of mu­sic and chore­og­ra­phy that lands it­self in Sophi­a­town but that is also dis­tin­cly African.”

IN STEP: Rush­ney Fer­gu­son, Bar­ileng Mal­ibye and Ntando Ra­p­atla at re­hearsal.

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