Mandela Trilogy at the Royal Festival Hall
Written and directed by Michael Williams, Cape Town Opera’s remarkable and inspirational Mandela Trilogy has opened at the Royal Festival Hall in Southbank Centre. Its three acts feature Nelson Mandela at different stages of life, from his youthful self (Thato Machona) with his Thembu tribe, to a young man (Peace Nzirawa), to his more senior years (Mandla Mndebele). Composer Peter Louis van Dijk’s first and third trilogies are classically operatic, while the second from composer Mike Campbell recreates a 1940s-musical style with an addition of rock-opera.
Mandela’s interaction with his jailer in the prelude encapsulates the essence of his mission: “The purpose of freedom is to create it for others.” / Warden: “This sort of freedom is impossible in South Africa.” It is the “impossible” that Mandela achieves: “To overthrow oppression is the highest aspiration of every free man.”
To escape arranged marriages by their father, a Thembu chief, Mandela and his brother plot an escape to Johannesburg. For Mandela, the decision is with remorse: “A dedicated scholar, a favourite son of a chief, but an arranged marriage is too hard to bear. And now I run away like a common thief”. In the city, Mandela encounters the reality of white oppression and becomes involved in resistance with designs to overthrow the government.
Although portrayed as a bit of a womaniser, he is a dedicated freedom fighter, thereby sacrificing his own liberty when sentenced to life in prison, “jailed for believing in a free South Africa”. Eventually released, however, he achieves independence for South Africa, peace and reconciliation.
The quality of the vocals of the Cape Town Opera singers is truly outstanding. Tine Mene as Mandela’s mother has a superbly powerful, beautiful voice. Candida Mosoma as jazz vocalist Dolly is extraordinary. Every one of the singers is exceptional, however, and the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Tim Murray, is perfection.
With a very simple set, a video screen on the back wall displays a natural environment of tribal Africa, newsreels of South Africa and scenes from film noirs. Costumes admirably reflect tribal customs and sophisticated 1940s styles.
As an opera/musical and a heartfelt tribute to a hero, Mandela Trilogy is mesmerising and of the highest quality. Certain to become a classic, the work is exceptional, inspiring theatre.
Mandela Trilogy is at the Royal Festival Hall from 31st August until 3rd September 2016. Book your tickets here.
Watch the trailer for Mandela Trilogy here: