Umoja : The Spirit of Togetherness

Thursday, 22 November, 2001
Review by: 
Darren Dalglish

The following review is from the Shaftesbury Theatre production

Wow, this musical celebration of South African song and dance is a high-energy show that is sure to put a smile on your face and give you a good feeling.

Creators Todd Twala and Thembi Nyandeni, along with scriptwriter and director Ian von Memerty have produced a pulsating show performed by a talented company of over 30 singers and dancers.

It has to be said that this is not a musical but more of a revue. The charming Hope Ndaba, narrates the show that charts the musical sounds of South Africa from tribal and gospel through to traditional and contemporary rhythms and sounds. There is no story, but it gives you a lot of pleasure as the cast dance through the ages with zest and lots of fun. The show also has lots of passion and lots of spirit, which of course is what the show is all about, bringing together all musical styles “in the spirit of togetherness”.

There are many different, unusual and interesting dance routines, particularly good is the snake dance, and the main song “Umoja” is outstanding.

Apparently many of the cast members come from the disadvantaged communities and townships so it is a joy to see what has been achieved, and although some of their routines are not perfectly executed, they more than make for this with their enthusiasm.

The show been well received by the popular press….. LUCY WALIIS for THE STAGE says, “A truly magnificent display of South African song and dance.” DONALD HUTERA for THE TIMES says, “The dancing is well drilled, the singing strong and a five-piece band is on the mark.” LYN GARDNER for THE GUARDIAN says, “This celebration of South African music and black spirit breezes into the West End like a breath of fresh air.” NADINE MEISNER for THE INDEPENDENT says, “They dance like demons, sing like angels and drum like magicians possessed.” SOPHIE CONSTANTI for THE EVENING STANDARD says, “The kind of show which shuns theatrical complexity in favour of airbrushed stereotype endorsement.”

Lasting just over 2 hours it is a show which adds to the West End’s diversity and is sure worth seeing if you want to see something culturally different, but essential if you love African music!


Production photos provided by epo

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