South African Umoja Extends Three Months to 26 MayDate: 15 January 2002
South African song and dance show Umoja - The Spirit of Togetherness has extended its run at the West End's Shaftesbury Theatre by three months. The production opened to enthusiastic reviews on 15 November 2001 (previews from 12 November) and had been booking to 16 February 2002. It is now taking bookings up to 26 May 2002.
Umoja incorporates the rhythms of tribal music, gumboot dancing, jazz, gospel and the contemporary sounds of Kwaito and Pantsula. South Africa's musical heritage is represented throughout the show, which utilises a cast of 36. The company is drawn from South Africa's versatile young singers, dancers, drummers and marimba players, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Umoja (which translates as "Unity") was created by Todd Twala (who has been nominated for a Whatsonstage.com Award for Best Choreographer - click here to vote) and Thembi Nyandeni (of Ipi Ntombi movie fame). It's scripted and directed by award-winning theatrical creator Ian von Memerty. Hope Ndaba is the show's narrator, with the rites-of-passage narrative exploring the activities and ideologies prevalent in Ndaba's childhood village.
The production was first seen in summer 2001 at Johannesburg's Sandton Convention Centre. Umoja is actually a theatrical development of Baobab - a ten-man tribal show that successfully toured all over the world. The creators of Baobab were also Twala and Nyandeni, who joined forces with von Memerty to develop their creation into a larger event, portraying the growth of South African music.
The company has recorded a cast album with Sting Music and has performed for numerous dignitaries including Nelson Mandela, the President of China, Winnie Mandela and Felicia Mabuza-Suttle.
- by Terri Paddock