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KING DINUZULU: THE LAST WARRIOR KING
DIRECTOR: Jerry Pooe
CAST: Mxolisi Ngubane, Thulane Mngadi, Bhekani Biyela, Nhlakanipho Maphumulo, Samkelisiwe Hlophe, Makhulu Hlophe, Zanele Zulu, Xolani Henema, Bongumusa Shabalala
UNTIL / VENUE: Return season in December at Durban City Hall
LONG before African history was formally documented, tribes and clans had their own way of keeping their history alive through oral storytelling.
In Jerry Pooe’s King Dinuzulu: The Last Warrior King, which staged at the Playhouse last week, the audience is invited to become a part of this intimate tradition as it hears the story of Dinuzulu.
Although the musical is mainly in Zulu, the cast of 19 do a great job of acting, dancing and singing through this historical account of a great king.
So even if you’re not a mother tongue speaker, it is easy to follow.
There’s also a court scene revolving around Dinuzulu’s first capture by the British authorities which is in Zulu and English.
When the British make their case and Dinuzulu’s legal representatives counter this, the entire story up to that point is briefly recaptured in this English dialogue as well.
On the whole King Dinuzulu is a fascinating story about a man who was the youngest reigning Zulu monarch. During his exile on St Helena Island he also learnt English and how to play the piano, and returned to his people enlight- ened about Western culture, but still standing firm in his traditions.
He was also the first king to join the ANC.
It’s this development, a mix of tradition and Western, and culture and politics that makes King Dinuzulu: The Last Warrior King so fascinating to watch.
Sam Hlophe (Dance your butt off) takes on the role of “KaMsweli” (Dinuzulu’s mother).
She does a great job of portraying this passionate woman, who also takes on the role of storyteller in this production as the events are viewed through her account of her son’s reign.
That said, kudos to the entire cast for carrying off the fast-paced production which had the audience clapping and ululating as they cheered the cast on.
A minimalist set was brought to life with creative lighting and shadow techniques which saw the set shift from Dinuzulu’s royal homestead to a forest scene to a mass funeral procession and more.
The costumes in shows such as these need not be over-elaborate as, in my humble opinion, it’s the traditional attire and vibrant Zulu dance which become the frills that adequately and authentically complete this historical picture.
The saddest part of this vibrant show was the number of empty seats in the house.
A well deserved standing ovation!
• King Dinuzulu: The Last Warrior King will tour the Eastern Cape next, staging at the PE Opera House in November. It returns to KZN in December, this time staging at Durban City Hall.