The Isango Ensemble made its Australian debut with SS Mendi: Dancing the Death Drill at the Brisbane Festival 2019’s opening weekend.
The multi award-winning South African theatre company’s new original musical is a must-see, particularly for those interested in history that has been removed from school classrooms. And once you see SS Mendi: Dancing the Death Drill, you’ll know why.
The story of SS Mendi is nothing short of tragic. Over 640 South African troops died on the ship on the way to help France during the first World War after another British ship accidentally rammed it on a foggy pre-dawn morning. Most of the men were not Caucasian. However, the Caucasian captain, who survived, did nothing to help the drowning men.
Isango Ensemble’s retelling of the story uses just the right amount of humour to keep this heavy story light, and music and movement to make it uplifting. With goosebump inducing harmonies, the voices of the 14-member cast take you to another place entirely. The live sound effects made by the cast are worthy of winning an award category of its own. Plastic bottles are ‘crushed’ by hand and water buckets ‘sploshed’ with bricks right in front of your eyes. This style of live sound effects is much more entertaining than listening to a digital track from the sound booth.
SS Mendi: Dancing the Death Drill is not the only show the Isango Ensemble is performing at the Brisbane Festival. On Sunday, September 8 they present St Matthew Passion.
The Brisbane Festival runs from 6-28 September 2019.