Wilton’s Music Hall Productions, Yiimimangaliso, The Mysteries

Review in Issue 14-2 | Summer 2002

Beautiful vocal sound that reverberates in and around the audience until it swells and explodes exuding glorious exaltation! It undulates in tone, colour and movement giving emphasis to the biblical epic that is Yiimimangaliso, The Mysteries. This evocative piece of music theatre has made its debut on the West End after a previously successful run at Wilton’s Music Hall in 2001.

A contemporary re-enactment of the medieval Mystery Plays, this show is a successful collaboration between the South African Academy of Performing Arts and Wilton’s Music Hall. As in the day of the medieval street players, the ensemble of young and versatile singers relay memorable biblical stories from the Creation to the Crucifixion. These stories morph one into the other as cast members, sharing key roles, contribute to a spoken and sung dialogue of Afrikaans, English, Xhosa and Zulu.

The company delivers their performance with relish and ease. Its direction shows consideration to the audience and the participatory nature of the original plays, drawing them in by sometimes moving the action from the stage. The voices and gestures of the performers are poignant and evocative. Most scenes require few props: a garden trellis represents Noah’s Ark; upturned oil drums used as percussion instruments. A mainly bare stage, flanked by scaffold, is animated in simple yet striking fashion with the lighting design of Mannie Manim, foot-stamping choreography by Joel Mthethwa and the harmonious soundscape provided by Charles Hazlewood. Moments of humour, solemnity and ritual combine to make this piece a celebration of South African culture as well as a poignant and accessible adaptation of the Chester Cycles.

Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Mar 2002

This article in the magazine

Issue 14-2
p. 27