Ndebele Funeral, Summerhall, Festival Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Smoke and Mirrors Collaborative
Zoey Martinson (writer), Awoye Timpo (director) Sduduzo Ka-Mbili and Cuereston Burge (choreography) Justin W. King (lighting design), Lara de Bruijn (costume design), John Emmett O’Brien (sound design) Spirits Indiginous and Tuelo Minah (original music) , Tuelo Minah (musical direction), Jason Sherwood (scenic design)
Yusef Miller (Mandisi), Jonathan David Martin (Jan), Zoey Martinson (Thandi)
Running time

Nothing is black or white in this powerful play from Brooklyn based Smoke and Mirrors Collaborative.

Ndebele Funeral is inspired by a 10 minute play by Ivan Suazo and was written by Martinson following her working as a humanitarian aid worker at a West African refugee camp before interviewing people living in the settlements around Soweto.

Kliptown, Soweto is the home to the declaration of the Freedom Charter that set out the aims and aspirations of the opponents of apartheid. The play is set in the makeshift corrugated Kliptown home of Thandi, (Zoey Martinson), a beer swigging Sowetan woman dying of AIDS. In the corner of her messy ‘Feng shuied’ home sits elaborately painted box that’s worthy of being one of the coffins in Alan Spence’s book Way to Go . Her friend Mandisi (Yusef Miller) inhabits a different world altogether - one where he can dress pretty sharply, be on Facebook and listen to CNN. Outside Jan (Jonathan David Martin), a white bureaucrat from the Department of Human Settlement, searches hopelessly for a house numbered 109 to check on the use of government housebuilding supplies.

Once this play opens up, any perceptions about where these three sit in this post -Apartheid world are blown away. The deep complexities of living in a stressed and altered environment are exposed over the piece through impassioned spotlit storytelling whose authenticity is palpable not only because it is Kliptown community voices that ‘have found their way into this play’ but because these voices are delivered with passion by the three strong cast. Add to this some gorgeous soaring singing and mighty ‘gumboot’ dancing and you have the multi-disciplinary, emotionally charged experience that is Ndebele Funeral.

Many worlds collide in this potent piece of theatre from Zoey Martinson who also gives a strong performance as the dying Thandi: a man who wants to connect with the wider world and a woman who ‘wants to dance alone’; social media and no door for a letterbox; health and illness; birth and death; the fulfilment of dreams. Yet in the end it is a special kind of love that win out as the friends make dual pact with heaven that leaves the heart in the mouth.

5-30 August at 13.00