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Sunday, 27 May 2018

REVIEW: This World Here… Nomhlaba Le' ★★★★ at North Shields Exchange


Curious Monkey (UK) and Newcastle Arts Development Organisation (South Africa) co-production

This World Here… Nomhlaba Le' ★★★★


North Shields The Exchange, Saturday 26th May 2018
Newcastle Alphabetti Theatre Tuesday 29th - Thursday 31st May 2018

What is 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.

For a 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.

Photo: RusbyMedia
This 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?

This 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 line.

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 Golding 
Produced by Sphiwe Xulu and Jen Dewar
Assistant Director Jonluke McKie

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