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A CurtainUp London Review
The Magic Flute
The performers are multi-talented as they switch from marimba playing to taking singing roles in this community versiuon of Mozart's opera. The whole is played with much humour and light hearted comedy by these musician performers who often live in poor housing, and as Kwame Kwei Armah tells us in the programme, many sleep on concrete floors in the township or look after sick and dying members of their families before and after gruelling rehearsals.
The testing of Tamino to see if he is worthy of the daughter of the Queen of the Night, Pamina (Philisa Sibeko) becomes a rite of passage for a young Xhosa boy and the High Priest Sarastro (Simphiwe Mayeki) is an African tribal chieftain. The Papageno (Zamilie Gantana) scenes are great fun as the large bird catcher, here decked out in a witty camouflage suit, comically chases after the pretty chorus of little birds. When he meets his Papagena (Thozambo Mdliva) the whole audience is smiling. The assistants of the queen of the Night are am impressive trio and the Queen of the Night herself, Pauline Malefane, with her Medusa-like headdress has a tremendous singing range. Tamino plays his flute while a trumpeter plays behind him and percussion on glass water bottles provides the music of the magic but almost all of the music is on the versatile marimbas. I liked too the costumes, some are inspired by tribal dress and other would seem to be fantasy or a parody of haute couture.
The night I saw it there were quite young children in the audience but on the whole it would be better to listen to the Young Vic's advice that this production is more suitable to the over tens. This production is twinned with Ikrismas Kherol a version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol where a female Scrooge, Pauline Malefane looks back on the days of apartheid, and which I have not yet seen.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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