A Man of Good Hope at the Royal Opera House
Isango Ensemble Production joins a first-time collaboration of the Young Vic and the Royal Opera to present A Man of Good Hope in the Linbury Theatre. Based on the book of the same name by Jonny Steinberg, it recounts the true story of Asad Abdullahi, a man from Somalia whose journey across Africa begins with the traumatic moment in which, at the tender age of eight, he witnessed the murder of his mother in war-torn Mogadishu.
Somalia, which is home to great poetry, music and dance, and the birthplace of supermodel Iman, is a country devastated by colonialism, which divided up its land, as well as exploitation of its resources, which left a weak infrastructure, war and one of the world’s worst refugee crisis. South African theatre company Isango Ensemble reimagine Asad’s journey and the discrimination that he, as a Somali, experiences in South Africa in order to reveal the wider issue of colonial ambitions that “divided up Africa in Berlin” leaving a fractured continent whose great minds strive, evidently despite the odds, to leave the continent for “America where there is peace… no-one has guns… [and] everyone is rich.”
Mark Dornford-May’s direction and Mandisi Dyantyis and Pauline Malefane’s musical direction deliver a creative amalgam of music, dance and narrative with its wonderfully conceptualised use of space that has the audience shaking heads and shoulders to the drumbeats. Whereas the subtle rhythm that begins the show leaves hearts afloat in chests as all awaited in anticipation of an emotionally overwhelming journey of memory, trauma, war, devastation – and amidst all this, love, community, compassion, belonging and humour. Asad as a boy (Siphosethu Hintsho), Asad as a young man (Thandolwethu Mzembe) and Foosiyah (Cikizwa Rolomana) share the limelight of the performance, while the ensemble’s collective singing – especially during the haunting echo of Hinsho’s performance the moment his mother is killed – leave the audience gaping with awe.
The £400 that Steinberg invested in Asad’s story has gone a long way and is proof not just of a good narrative. It is an extremely commendable effort to re-Africanise a story of war documented by a white man and catered for the demands of a Western audience. Do not miss the absolute pleasure to see the award-winning Isango Ensemble at work right here at London’s Royal Opera House.
Photo: Keith Pattison
A Man of Good Hope is at the Royal Opera House from 16th April until 4th May 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for A Man of Good Hope here: