Award winning Cape Town company Isango Ensemble are returning to London for a four week season at Hackney Empire, from 11 May to 3 June 2012.  

The company, supported by the Columbia Fund, will present Aesop’s Fables, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and La bohème in rep, all of which will premiere in Cape Town in February, in partnership with The Global Fund. The London press performances will be on 19 May 2012.

Aesop’s Fables is a “vibrant and powerful” musical by Mandisi Dyantyis and Pauline Malefane with a script by Peter Terson. Although Aesop is portrayed as a Greek the production is set within the recent history of South Africa.

The Ensemble’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists musical adaptation is by Stephen Lowe from Robert Tressell’s seminal 20th century socialist book. It opened The Fugard Theatre in Cape Town in 2010, where Isango was the company in residence for the first year.  

Tressell spent much of his early life in Cape Town and the novel bears hidden traces of his life in the then Cape colony. Isango’s version moves the action to an apartheid era 1950s Cape Town with popular and Struggle songs from that time.

Isango's version of La bohème transfers the story from the garrets of Paris to the townships of South Africa. The music will be played on Marimbas and Steel Pans in a style similar to the company's Olivier Award-winning The Magic Flute which was seen at the Young Vic in 2007 and the Duke of York’s Theatre in 2008.

The company and Hackney Empire are teaming with The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria to mount the productions. According to press material, “The townships where the performers come from are amongst some of the world's highest infection areas for TB", while many of the company's extended family members are "living with the realities of TB on a daily basis".

All three productions are directed by Mark Dornford-May with music by Pauline Malefane and Mandisi Dyantyis and choreography by Lungelo Ngamlana.