Theatre review – Ingcwaba lendoda lise cankwe ndlela

Posted: February 17, 2010 in Theatre & Event Reviews and Interviews
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Directed by:  Mandla Mbothwe
Choreography:  Maxwell Xolani Rani
Music by:  Nolufefe Mtshabe
Drummer:  Themba Pondo
Multimedia editor:  Sanjin Muftic
Resident performer:  Faniswa Yisa
Translations:  Thoko Ntshinga
Decor Design: Craig LeoCostume Design: Shiba Sopotela

Lighting Design: Craig Leo

Review:  Astrid Stark

Published in the Cape Times, Tuesday 16 February, ’10 

Thando Doni & Thumeka Mzayiya - photo by Sean Wilson

Director Mandla Mbothwe writes that home, in the African culture, is everything, and it is said that if you don’t know where your home is, that bad luck will follow you.  “Without home you are not protected; not fixed.  You are just a wind.”

Ingcwaba lendoda lise cankwe ndlela means, “the grave of the man is next to the road”, and it is within this context that Mbothwe created one of the most original and stirring performances that I have seen in Cape Town.  The title is taken from this isiXhosa idiomatic expression which suggests that people are always on the road and that the journey home never ends.  Sometime the traveller gives up in the process of searching. Hence his grave is next to the road.

The play explores the stories of the Xhosa people as they migrate to Cape Town in search of work and their perpetual emotional, spiritual, and intellectual journeys.  It is told simply and effectively in IsiXhosa through poetry and songs.  Even though I have lived for a long time in the Eastern Cape, I have forgotten what a poetic and expressive language IsiXhosa is.  And how deeply steeped the Xhosa people are in their very unique traditions.  Mbothwe’s words, translated into English by Thoko Ntshinga, are projected on a large screen and they bubble beautifully like water over stones. In the background is projected a continued filmed perspective of the N2 from the Eastern Cape to Cape Town as seen through a car’s window. The images represent the never-ending journey of mankind in search of belonging and a home. The end result is very stirring and evocative.  A man on the side of the road laments, “I remembered that a man could be punished by his own conscience.  I tasted experiences and consciousness with a heavy sigh.”  If Shakespeare wrote in Xhosa, one can imagine that this is what it would’ve sounded like.

Resident performer of the Magnet Theatre, Faniswa Yisa, leads a team of Magnet Theatre trainees in a powerful performance that makes it near impossible to believe that they are still in training.  The actors are clearly completely immersed in their particular characters.  Their singing is powerful and heartfelt; sincere.  Themba Pondo is the drummer that punctuates the scene changes and his fierce and emotional pounding adds a feeling of high melodrama to the action on stage.

Throughout the play the choreography is tight and pleasing on the eye.  Maxwell Xolani Rani has clearly explored every possible angle and, together with Craig Leo’s lighting effects, he employs his actors and stage props to maximum visual effect.

Luvo Tamba; Mziwandile Nofomele; Themba Nqinileyo; Nandipha Mnyuka - Photo by Sean Wilson 3

During the last 20 minutes of the show, the girl behind me could not stop crying; which kept on setting me off.  A great performance does not always have to make us cry, but Ingcwaba lendoda lise cankwe ndlela reaches deep into our very humanity and stirs up emotions and memories that we have long since repressed.  You must have a heart of stone to remain unmoved by the honesty of the actors and the director.  I suspect it’s a much underrated production.  If you are only going to watch one indigenous language performance this year; then it should be this one.

The performance runs at the Artscape Arena until 20 February.  Normal tickets are R50.  Pensioners and students pay R35 per ticket with valid ID.  Block bookings of groups 10 or more are R35 per ticket.  Learners pay R35 per ticket.  Bookings may be made through

The end.


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