“The words are theirs, the dream is ours” the Zulu narrator of Torchbearers calls out. His words reverberate through different generations and across diverse cultures as we piece together the story of two star-crossed lovers from very different walks of life.
Last night’s show of Torchbearers at the Artscape Theatre blew me away. Not only was the acting incredible from the diverse cast of South African and Welsh performers; but the story, the costumes, the choreography – everything was awe-inspiring.
The musical tells the story of two young lovers: Thembesile, a young Zulu girl, and Gerwyn, a Welsh actor, who meet on the set of the 1964 classic film, Zulu, in Johannesburg. The two fall in love but are torn asunder by apartheid and destined never to see one another again. Although they spend years apart and lead completely separate lives, their longing for one another never diminishes and we share their hope of a future together. We experience not only their past but also how it shapes their present and future. We watch as their children and grandchildren grow up in the same world they did but experience it differently due to the immense changes that have occurred since their own youth.
Without exception all the actors did a brilliant job, but the two leads, Zoliswa Euphonia Kawe and Nathan Sussex, did a particularly remarkable job reliving the memories and showcasing the hurt and loss their characters both experienced in their lives.
This beautiful story was written and directed by Laurence Allan who was inspired by his own experiences watching Zulu as a child. With the help of Valleys Kids, a community development charity, his intention was to unite the youth of the South Wales Valleys (one of the most deprived areas in Europe) with South Africa’s townships through a blend of acting, circus performance, dance, music and song. And he has succeeded superbly. This hodge podge of creativity blends together to create a truly beautiful work of art that celebrates and brings together two very diverse cultures.
And it’s this amazing combination of all forms of creativity that calls upon the skills of many local South African companies. The dancers are from the local upliftment project Dance For All and, choreographed by Christoper Kindo, they effortlessly dominate the stage encapsulating the raw emotion of the actors, providing a beautiful backdrop to all the scenes. Combined with the stylised sounds of the Cape Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, the alluring vocals of the Fezeka Voice choir and the amazing feats of the Zip Zap Circus School, this show has it all. Rich in cultural history and a beautiful fusion of two cultures, this heartfelt story shouldn’t be missed.
REVIEW by Claire Pokorchak - What’s On in Cape Town