Part up-beat musical, part theatrical opera, part fable, part epic Hollywood drama
Reviewed at the Royalty Theatre on 6 March 2019
Presented by Adelaide Festival
Part up-beat musical, part theatrical opera, part fable, part epic Hollywood drama – A Man of Good Hope brings to the stage the unimaginable story of an impoverished Somalian refugee in a confronting, yet truly beautiful tale of survival, strength and resilience.
At the age of just eight, the murder of Asad Abdullahi’s mother by militiamen from a rival Somalian clan right before his very eyes sets the child on a journey so unbelievable that it really does feel like a fable. After escaping the country’s devastating civil war by crossing the border alone into Kenya, there appears to be hope for the young boy when he is united with a caring cousin, only to have this safety ripped away. As the years go by and Asad grows older, loss and bad things continue to plague Asad’s world – but does he give up? Nope – he adapts, and through his tenacious resilience he continues to survive in a world that really, he shouldn’t.
Based on the biographical novel of the same name by South African writer Johnny Steinberg, A Man of Good Hope brings the incredible story of Asad to the stage for all to witness its humour, horrors and indomitable human spirit. As soon as Asad manages even the tiniest win (a corner to sleep in, a poorly-paying job, a sense of belonging, a wife and child) it is brutally ripped away by the violent and criminal un-rest that make up his world.
The Cape Town-based, Olivier Award-winning Isango Ensemble bring this epic story to life with their inexhaustible liveliness, powerhouse vocals, smooth dance moves and signature marimba (a deep-toned African xylophone) all uniting to create an attention-commanding performance. You certainly won’t feel short-changed by the cost of admission with the show running for over two hours, and within this extensive period of time not once does the energy on stage drop. From belting out a myriad of catchy songs as well as powerful vocal operatics to vibrantly choreographed African dancing, every single performer within the massive 22-member cast gives their absolute all throughout the entire performance.
Amongst the show’s upbeat tunes, fun dance routines and moments of humour, the horrors of a world we do not know (and probably never will) lie in wait. It is confronting to witness the depiction of senseless violence and murders, destructive xenophobia, traditions that see the mutilation of female genitalia and unchallenged systemic corruption, but they are all parts of Asad’s story that cannot be simply glazed over or erased.
Counterbalancing these moments of unimaginably horrific events with just the right amount of humour, energy and catchy music, prevents A Man of Good Hope from becoming overwhelmingly distressing. Instead, it creates a performance that is powerful, moving, eye-opening and memorably entertaining.
Reviewed by Georgina Smerd
Venue: Royalty Theatre, 65 Angas Street, Adelaide, 5000
Season: 5 – 11 March 2019
Duration: 2 hrs 30 mins (15 minute intermission)
Tickets: $35 – $89