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REVIEW: This World Here… Nomhlaba Le' ★★★★ at North Shields Exchange
Curious Monkey (UK) and Newcastle
Arts Development Organisation (South Africa) co-production
World Here… Nomhlaba Le'★★★★
North Shields The Exchange, Saturday
26th May 2018
Newcastle Alphabetti Theatre Tuesday
29th - Thursday 31st May 2018
home? How do we feel about the place we call home? Why is it alright for us to
criticise the place we call home but not for outsiders to say the same thing?
For that matter: who am I and what makes my identity? All of this and more is
chewed over in this production.
curtain raiser on opening night, the show began with a large choir that meet at
Gosforth Civic Theatre called the Mouthful Voices. It was their first public
performance though you’d not guess that from the range of harmonies that they
filled the venue with. On the theme of home there was a range of songs ranging
from a South African song, written by cast member Sanele Mzimela, to one based
upon a Chinese proverb. A nice start to proceedings.
World Here… Nomhlaba Le' was commissioned as a cultural
project between the Newcastles of the world. It draws on the experiences from
the cast who are based in either Newcastle KZN in South Africa and Newcastle
Upon Tyne here in England. Both areas have a history of coal mining so there
are some common roots.
As Jo Cox once said “We are far more united than the
things that divide us.” The bulk of the production takes the form of a
conversation between the cast members about their feelings about home and their
observations about visiting the other Newcastle. This leads the audience
members to reflect upon their own position.
Some of the issues are trivial: Why do Brits stay out in the rain when the
people in many cultures rush off to take cover?
Other issues are much more-deep rooted: Why is the history
taught in British schools very selective and doesn’t involve the Empire? Why
did the country that pushed the Bible on foreign lands in the past become such
a secular society?
There are elements of storytelling, about love, and
song intertwined with the observations. Music was both traditional African and
Northeast English folk such as Waters of
Tyne. The cast sang in harmonies and also added some instrumentation. But
how did the overall show make one feel? Good question. Certainly, the show had
one mulling over one’s own place in society. Am I privileged? I certainly don’t
feel privileged. I find that I am pleased that the South African visitors are
happy with themselves and that the UK cast members have had a chance to find
themselves. I have had had the chance to do some travelling, including trips to
Africa, and I love coming home.
Perhaps that is the point: travel if you can –
appreciate the place that you call home?
World Here… Nomhlaba Le' is an interesting piece. Theatre is
working at its best if you leave and find yourself thinking it over. There is
also a fine line when you find a show is lecturing its’ audience. This show
just manages to keep on the discussing, rather than lecturing, side of that
Review by Stephen Oliver
Presented by Curious Monkey (UK) and
Newcastle Arts Development Organisation (South Africa)
Created By (cast): Sanele
Mzimela, Phelelani Mzimela, Velaphi Mthimkulu, Samu Khumalo, Sam Bell, Alice
Blundell and Stan Hodgson
Edited and Directed by: Amy
Produced by Sphiwe Xulu and Jen Dewar
Assistant Director Jonluke McKie