The Mysteries, a radical reinvention of the Chester Mystery Plays which is adapted and directed by Briton Mark Dornford-May, draws on the country's rich choral township traditions as well as modern rhythms created with oil drums and penny whistles. Four different languages are used in the piece - Afrikaans, English, Xhosa and Zulu - which is performed by a cast of 40 young South African actors of all races, many of whom have had no formal stage training.
Since first being seen in South Africa in 2000, the show has had an extended West End season, running for four and a half months to 18 May 2002 at the Queen’s Theatre, toured worldwide and returned for a week at the Peacock Theatre five years ago (See News, 3 Mar 2003). It’s so far been seen by more than 250,000 people worldwide.
This new production comes care of Cape Town-based Isango Portobello Theatre Company, the same team behind last year’s Whatsonstage.com and Olivier Award-winning South African version of The Magic Flute, which had a West End run at the Duke of York’s theatre following its UK premiere at the Young Vic (See News, 19 Dec 2007).
The Mysteries has musical direction by Mandisi Dyantyis and opera singer and Magic Flute star Pauline Malefane, who also leads the 33-strong ensemble in the new production, playing God and Jesus. It has choreography by Lungelo Ngamlana, lighting by Mannie Manim, costumes by Leigh Bishop and Fagrie Nasiep and puppetry by Aja Marneweck. Eric Abraham, who co-founded Isango Portobello Theatre Company with Mark Dornford-May, produces.
Currently at the Garrick, Trevor Nunn’s acclaimed Menier Chocolate Factory revival of Stephen Sondheim’s 1973 Broadway classic A Little Night Music - starring Hannah Waddingham, Alexander Hanson, Maureen Lipman and Jessie Buckley - is due to finish its extended West End season on 5 September 2009 ahead of a possible Broadway transfer (See News, 22 May 2009).