Presented by Mthakathi Productions & The Garage International
Reviewed 2 March 2017
This enormously enjoyable performance tells the story of the men who have to go far from their homes to work in the gold mines of South Africa. Stimela is a Zulu word which is usually translated as steam train or coal train, as this is the way most workers travelled. It’s told from the perspective of an old man, remembering the highs and lows of working in the mines.
The musical combines narration, music and gumboot dancing, a tradition which grew out of workers being forbidden to speak underground and devising this method of stamping their boots, decorated with bottle tops, to communicate. The dancers were brilliantly supported by the singers I so enjoyed from Africa Entsha and the musical is presented by the same company. How the dancers had the energy to sing as well is beyond me as perspiration was literally pouring off them but their energy and enthusiasm never faltered.
The emotions portrayed ran an unrestrained gamut from: bone weariness and pain; the heartbreak of being away from home; the very touching love song sung directly to my companion, accompanied by a kiss on her hand; the exuberant joy of payday, including the subsequent regrets and hangovers; through to the final parting at year’s end when they don’t know whether or not they will see their friends again.
I found myself laughing, stamping my feet, clapping along and, at times, close to tears as Stimela presented a rare combination of passion, emotional intensity, energy, humour and charm. As with Africa Entsha, I highly recommend it as it deserves to be seen and enjoyed by a much larger audience.
Reviewed by Jan Kershaw
Rating out of 5: 5
Venue: The Garage International (TGI)
Season: 3, 14-17 March TGI at Adelaide Town Hall; 5,11,12 March TGI at North Adelaide CC;
9 March The Cave at Kent Town Hotel; 4 March Salisbury Secret Garden at Salisbury Institute
Duration: 50 mins
Tickets: Full Price: $25.00, Concession: $20.00